Warning that there were “ominous signs for democracy” in West Bengal, internationally acclaimed scientist Partho Sarothi Roy, who was arrested for supporting slum dwellers when they were being evicted, Wednesday accused the Mamata Banerjee government of “targeting the voices of protest”.
“Signs are ominous about the state of democracy in West Bengal. It seems all intellectuals who are ready to speak their mind, who are willing to stand for what they feel are principles, are being targeted in some way or the other,” Roy, a microbiologist and an aggressive crusader against what he perceives as oppression, told a media conference here.
Roy, released on conditional bail ten days after his arrest, claimed he was falsely implicated despite not being present at the site April 4 when the evicted slum dwellers had demonstrated and subsequently clashed with the police.
“I have always considered standing beside the poor and the oppressed. If this is a crime in West Bengal, then I can only say that we are living in dark days… if someone can be falsely implicated because of that, it is a telling reminder of the condition of the rule of law in the state,” said the winner of a number of scientific awards.
“On the day of the demonstration (April 4) I was not at the site, but was at my institute some 70 km away. I have given evidence before the court in support of my claim,” said Roy, who has taken part in various movements including the agitation against the setting up of the POSCO steel plant in Orissa and the anti-dam protests in Assam.
Roy was released from the Alipore Central Correctional Home (jail) Wednesday after he was granted bail by a court Tuesday.
A host of eminent national and international personalities including well-known US-based academician-intellectual Noam Chomsky, had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his release.
An assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Kalyani in Nadia district, Roy was arrested with 68 others April 8 for his alleged involvement in a clash with the police during a rally April 4. He had participated in the rally which was taken out after the state government on March 30 demolished some shanties in Nonadanga, east of the city.
Roy, who has been a post-doctoral fellow at the Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, said in spite of his arrest he would continue to be a part of the movement until the evicted slum dwellers were rehabilitated.
“The last 10 days (in jail) have been a physical and mental trauma for me and my family. Moreover, it has caused tremendous damage to my professional career and also affected my students. In spite of all this I am willing and will continue to fight for them until they (slum dwellers) are rehabilitated,” he said.
Roy also rubbished the claims of involvement of Maoists in the Nonadanga movement.