Apr 20: We are living in dark days, says Partho Sarathi Ray

April 20, 2012

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article3329132.ece

“We are living in dark days”

Shiv Sahay Singh

After languishing in prison for 10 days, eminent scientist Partho Sarothi Ray, who was released here on Wednesday, said the clampdown on intellectuals who stand up and speak their minds in West Bengal is an ominous sign.

“I can only say that we are living in dark days,” he said.

Dr. Ray was arrested in connection with being a part of the demonstration of people evicted from the Nonadanga slums on the eastern fringes of the city.

He said the police brought charges against him for allegedly being present at a rally in the city on April 4 when he was actually present at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research on the day.

He was arrested on April 8 while participating in another rally demanding compensation for the evicted people. A city court granted him bail on Tuesday.

“If someone can be implicated in a case because of that [standing by the poor and the marginalised], it is a telling reminder of the condition of the rule of law in the State,” Dr. Ray said.

Stating that his arrest was a clear infringement of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom to assemble peacefully without arms, he denied any association with Maoists and added that there was no evidence of Maoist involvement in the movement as claimed by the police.

Pointing out that the State government was under pressure to release him in the face of mounting criticism from various academics and members of civil society, Dr. Ray said that justice would not be done until the six persons arrested along with him were also released. The government must also pay heed to the legitimate demand for rehabilitation of and compensation to the Nonadanga slum-dwellers, he added.

Dr. Ray condemned the arrest of Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of Jadavpur University who had to spend a night in police custody for circulating e-mails containing a cartoon of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, along with other Trinamool Congress leaders.

Both arrests created a huge public outcry with academicians and social activists, including Noam Chomsky and Aruna Roy, writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding the release of Dr. Ray.

Dr. Ray said that apart from the arrests, attacks on three peaceful rallies held in the city in the last few days clearly point to an attack on democracy. Expressing his disillusionment with the State government, he said that he refused offers of faculty position in two U.S. universities to work in West Bengal and had never thought that 10 days of his life would be lost in jail.

Emphasising that he had participated in the Singur and Nandigram agitations and had also played a “small part in the political change” in the State, Dr. Ray said the Trinamool government had gone back on its promises made to the people.