Eminent persons of international repute, including well-known US-based academician-intellectual Noam Chomsky, Monday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing concern over the use of state force in West Bengal in cracking down on human rights activists or citizens attempting to raise issues of concern.
The missive, signed by academicians, social activists and writers from across the country, and several overseas, contended that the approach of the state has “serious implications” for the “larger democratic ideals which this country espouses”.
The signatories demanded immediate bail for internationally acclaimed scientist Partho Sarothi Roy who was arrested along with others “while participating in a peaceful protest against the eviction of slum dwellers of Nonandanga area (in east Kolkata)”.
Describing Roy as an established scientist in the filed of molecular biology, whose scientific research findings have been published in world class journals, the letter alleged that the Kolkata police had used “force and unjustified means to crack down on the demonstrators”, against the “massive eviction of slum dwellers with police force without any rehabilitation measures”.
Calling the police action as “unjustified”, the letter signed by 55 persons including National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, said “we are extremely concerned about the treatment meted out to Dr Roy and others”.
“Incidentally, the excess of police has clearly not ended. On April 12, human rights activists were attacked and later arrested at a demonstration against the illegal evictions and the detention of Roy and others”.
The letter referred to a professor of Jadavpur university Ambikesh Mahapatra being beaten up “mercilessly by goons for an action which was as innocuous as forwarding an email to his friends whose content constituted a cartoon that had already been posted on Facebook a few weeks back.”
“It is frightening to note that instead of taking action against the assaulters, the police arrested Mahapatra, … (who was) kept in police custody for a night in spite of being charged under bailable sections of the Indian Penal code”.
“This, in our opinion, constitutes a clear violation of freedom of speech and all conceivable rights of an individual due to illegal action by the state police,” they said.
“We are extremely perturbed by such use of state force in cracking down on human rights activists, and citizens attempting to raise issues of concern related to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people or for actions such as forwarding cartoons”.
Alleging that the apparatus of the state is issuing the law and its modes of intimidation to stifle voices of conscience, it said “this violent suppression of protest appears also to be an attempt to threaten those who might raise their voice in dissent”. “It would therefore help if you could personally intervene to resolve these matters urgently,” they urged the prime minister.
The signatories demanded that all “dubious charges” against Roy, Mahapatra and other protestors be dropped and an impartial inquiry by a central agency be conducted into the issues “to prevent any further violation of human rights”.