In a U-turn, Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju on Sunday denounced West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as “totally dictatorial, intolerant, and whimsical” after the arrest of a man who questioned her policy on farmers at a rally. He warned that officials carrying out her “illegal orders” could face the fate of Nazi war criminals.
The incident that provoked Justice Katju’s wrath was the arrest of Shiladitya Choudhury, who, at a meeting in Midnapore district last week, complained about the steep rise in fertilizer prices and his inability to get his entitled portion of rice at Rs.2 a kg.
Saying that empty promises were not enough, he asked what steps the government was taking to ease the plight of dying farmers.
“At this, the Chief Minister declared him a Maoist and got him arrested. In my opinion this amounts to blatant misuse of State machinery and flagrant violation of constitutional and human rights,” said Justice Katju in his statement. “Her action is most undemocratic to say the least.”
The former Supreme Court judge noted that this was not the first time that Ms. Banerjee had shown signs of intolerance and high-handedness, highlighting the cases of Taniya Bharadwaj, who was branded a Maoist after asking “an innocuous question” on a TV channel, and Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, who was arrested for circulating anti-Mamata cartoons on the Internet.
“I have changed my opinion [about Ms. Banerjee] and believe that she is totally undeserving to be a political leader in a democratic country like India since she has no respect for constitutional and civil rights of citizens,” said Justice Katju.