The Mamata Banerjee government finally bowed before the groundswell of support for the arrested scientist Partha Sarathi Ray. On Tuesday, a city court granted him bail after 10 days in jail custody. But the bail pleas of six others arrested with Ray on April 8 were denied.
Ray’s arrest has been condemned by thousands of peers, students and rights activists from across the globe. Nobel laureate Noam Chomsky wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his release. Hundreds of voices claimed that Ray was framed by the Bengal government because he was fighting for the rehabilitation of those evicted from Nonadanga.
On Tuesday, the scientist’s lawyer Subhasis Roy submitted the bail petitions for all seven arrested activists. The state counsel, Tapan Saha, did not oppose Ray’s bail. “We do not have sufficient evidence against him,” said Saha, who opposed the bail of the six others, including Debolina Chakraborty. The lawyer pointed out that in the past week, the police could not find anything to substantiate their claims against Ray.
Around 7 in the evening, a magistrate granted bail to Ray but extended the remand of the rest. He may walk out of Presidency jail by Wednesday afternoon.
Political experts believe that the increasing pressure from different quarters in India and abroad forced the state government not to oppose Ray’s bail petition. Hundreds have joined the online signature campaign. A Delhi-based rights body has started a signature campaign for Debolina, saying she is a “victim of state revenge”.
Ray was among 61 protesters picked up by police during a demonstration against the Nonadanga eviction on April 8. A nine-year-old girl also spent hours in police lock-up before all but seven of them were freed. Ray, Debolina, Sidhhartha Gupta, Baban Chatterjee, Abhigyan Sarkar, Samik Chakraborty and Debjani Ghosh were arrested. All seven were accused of assaulting police officers during an agitation on April 4. Debolina was charged in a two-year-old case for alleged Maoist links. They were remanded in jail custody till April 26.
Ray, who teaches at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science and Research, is an anti-eviction crusader. His colleagues say he was attending a faculty meeting at IISER on April 4 and that he stayed in the guest house that night. They submitted documents in favour of their claim and allege that Ray was framed. The state counsel had earlier claimed that the arrested leaders were indulging in Maoist activities at Nonadanga and had stockpiled arms and ammunition in the area.