More than 50 intellectuals have expressed “dismay over the spiralling descent into irrationality” of the West Bengal government following Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s directives to libraries to subscribe to particular newspapers and the arrest of a Jadavpur University professor for posting her caricatures on internet.
In a written statement, the signatories from the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) said: “We believe the increasing illogical behaviour of the administration is inspired from the very top, by the impetuous and ill-considered statements and actions of the chief minister on every matter that falls within her gaze: crimes against women, the poor oversight of medical facilities or the deteriorating in the quality of civic services.”
Some of the protesters included Irfan Habib, Teesta Setalvad, Mridula Mukherjee, Astad Deboo, Saeed Mirza and M.K. Raina.
“The West Bengal state government order issued late in March, laying down in minute detail the newspapers public libraries could subscribe to, was an unwarranted intrusion into the right of the people to seek information from any source of their choosing,” said the statement.
The signatories alleged that the circular issued by Banerjee left out two most popular English language dailies and all English newspapers.
The arrest of Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra “after he was roughed up by the political cadre of the ruling party – for circulating a subtle joke about Mamata Banerjee’s style of leadership, must rank among the gravest violations of free speech by an elected government in recent times,” said the statement.
The signatories said “they were shocked at the continuing incarceration of Partho Sarothi Ray, an internationally-renowned biologist, for attending a peaceful protest against the eviction of slum dwellers”.