PUDR statement on the arrest of Naba Dutta

August 19, 2010

PUDR is outraged at the arrest of Naba Dutta of Nagarik Manch, an organization that has been working for over two decades, devoted to environmental and labour issues. The trumped up charges against him is yet another instance of the West Bengal state government deliberately targeting activists, civil liberties groups, media representatives…in order that truth about the actual happenings on the ground in Lalgarh area remain suppressed.

Naba Dutta along with his 3 companions; Progna Paromita Dutta Roy Chowdhury, Gautam Ghosh and Dipankar Mazumdar, are all members of Nagarik Mancha, an organization mainly focused on environmental and labor issues, attended a sit in, in front of the Block Development Officer’s office at Narayangarh block of West Midnapur. The programme was organized by Lodha Shabar Vumij Kalyan Smiti, whose patron is Mahashweta Devi. After the program when they were returning to Kolkata they were all detained by the police.

While driver of the vehicle and Naba Dutta’s three colleagues were later released the police proceeded to arrest Naba Datta and charge him among other things under Arms Act, S 307 (attempt to murder) 120 B of IPC, pretending that he was the mastermind of the incident in Jhargram where vehicles belonging to an illegal sponge iron mill were burnt on December 18, 2009. Significantly, in the past eight months, since the incident occurred, not once did the Jhargram police summon Naba Dutta, if they indeed have evidence in their possession to link him to the crime. Naba Dutta was not in Jhargam when the incident took place. And it is the CPI(Maoist) which carried out the act of arson, which they publicly declared to be a result of state government’s failure to take action against the owners of the illegal plant and its contractors. Nagrik Manch had filed a PIL in Kolkata high court against the illegal operations of the plant.

Although the magistrate has given him bail and also implied that the case looked implausible, we are alarmed that for West Bengal authorities filing a PIL against an illegal plant is akin to commission of a crime. We, therefore, appeal to saner elements in the administration to think of the consequences of suppressing dissent and legitimate activities in the name of emergency like situation.

Asish Gupta and Moushumi Basu
secretaries PUDR

New Delhi 18 August, 2010