Don’t dare to write to Anna, or else Police will come

March 24, 2014

by Ranjit Sur

On the day before the scheduled Anna Hazare – Mamata Banerjee meeting in Delhi, I wrote a letter to Anna Hazare, the famous ‘Gandhian’ Social Activist, on behalf of APDR-BBD Bag Branch (APDR is one of the oldest civil rights organization of India functioning since 1972). The letter was heavily publicized in the local as well as national media. In that letter, we informed him about the human rights situation in West Bengal. We told him how the present Government has destroyed all the quasi-judicial watch-dog organizations of the state like West Bengal Human Rights Commission, Information Commission etc. We requested Annaji to know from Mamata Banerjee when she would appoint Lokayukta in West Bengal. The allegations of the involvement of ministers of West Bengal state government as well leaders of the ruling party (TMC) in the Sarada and other Chit Fund scams were also brought to his attention. At the same time, we alerted Annaji regarding the constant pronouncements of Mamata Banerjee about keeping her election pledges and the mismatch with later actions. Till today, she has not kept her pre-electoral promises of releasing all political prisoners and withdrawing joint forces from Junglemahal along with others. So, we asked Annaji to first study the fact-sheet of West Bengal and then independently decide his course of action regarding joining hands with Mamata Banerjee (and for that matter the Trinomul Congress).

The news about the letter and its contents was widely publicised by the media. This was appreciated by the general public. Immediately after that, we, particularly me, began to feel the heat. Suddenly I noticed that unknown persons were watching my movements in the BBD Bag area. We also noticed them at our daily meeting places. I also felt unknown persons were following me. Also, APDR central office seemed to be watched round the clock.

This surveillance process came to a climax on 13th March, one or two days after the Anna-Mamata mass meeting at Raamleela Maiden failed to take off. On that day, at about 5.30/6 pm two stout persons, who introduced themselves as policemen, came to our locality in Santoshpur with a silp of paper in hand on which my residential address was written. They asked our neighbours and our family driver about the location of the house. When our neighbours showed them the house and asked our driver to call me (since I was present in the house), the ‘Policemen’ forbade them and said they had come to “mark the house” and since they had done it, there was no need to talk with anybody. They left. Anxious neighbours and our driver informed me of the ‘marking’. I phoned the local police station (the Survey Park PS). Local PS told me that they knew nothing and they did not send any one. I waited all evening. No one came.

Next morning, I filed a complaint at the Survey Park PS, narrating the whole incident, and also forwarded the letter to the DC (south Suburban division) as well as the Police Commissioner of Kolkata. I also narrated the whole episode on Facebook. One vernacular daily picked the story from there and reported it on 15th.

On 15th evening, two police persons from local PS came to my residence to investigate my complaint. They talked with our driver and one of my neighbours with whom the mysterious visitors had interacted. After hearing the detailed description of the two mysterious men, the Police persons confidently told that the mysterious persons were, in all probability, policemen working with Special Branch (SB). They expressed their inability to say why these persons from SB had come. But, they assured us that the persons from SB are “not harmful” and their only duty was to take information about the activists of various nature and since I ‘do APDR-TR’, they had probably come to keep a tab on my movements and know about my whereabouts.

At this juncture the OC of the local PS also telephoned me and assured all help- but did not answer my question : if they were really policemen, why they did not meet me since I was in the house. I strongly expressed my resentment to the police officials for this type of unethical and illegal activities of the law keepers. I asked them – who will be responsible for the loss of prestige of me and my family members, in front of my neighbours ? Moreover, “marking” of any individual’s residence and spying over that person is unconstitutional, since it violates one’s right to free movement, privacy and right to dignified living. The policemen left with the assurance of further reporting after completion of their investigations. On 19th March, the Police Commissioner also sent an e-mail saying DC (South Subarban) has been advised to look into the matter of my complaint. I am thankful to all of them, but the larger questions remained unanswered.

I am writing this incident to inform you all that this is the situation of democracy and human rights in West Bengal now. How can writing a letter to a well-known personality lead to surviellance and police intervention ? Is it not a political vendetta, since questions raised in the letter may create a bit uneasiness for the Chief Minister at Delhi and elsewhere? Is it not a case of sending police to silence a human rights’ activist, for raising questions over people’s rights in West Bengal? Is it the ‘Poribartan’ (which means “change”) for which the people of Bengal had fought for ? Can’t we, the people of Bengal, expect a bit of more tolerance ?

[The Writer is a Cental Secretariat Member of ASSOCIATION FOR PROTECTION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS (APDR) and SECRETARY of its BBD Bag Branch ]

#####

The letter of complaint, in Bengali, sent to the local Police Station and Police Commissioner

scan0015-2