Stating that “no government can dictate what the people will read or not read,” litterateur and Magsaysay awardee Mahasweta Devi condemned here on Wednesday the State government's decision, endorsed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to restrict the subscription of newspapers in libraries run, aided or sponsored by the State to a list prescribed by it.

“No government can dictate which newspaper to read or not to read. The order is not in the interest of the people. Many poor people depend on State-funded libraries for reading newspapers,” she said at a citizens' convention organised to protest against the government's decision.

Ms. Devi, who is believed to be close to the Chief Minister and has attended several public rallies of the Trinamool Congress, has publicly criticised Ms. Banerjee's government in the recent past as well.

When activists of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and other organisations had been denied permission to organise a protest rally in November last year, Ms. Devi had condemned the “suppression of freedom of expression” as “nothing, but fascism.” The Trinamool chief had responded by stating that the ossctogenarian had been misinformed by her associates.

She said this latest order will “send the wrong message to the people,” particularly as the government should be concentrating on other priorities instead of dictating what the people should read.

“This order won't serve any purpose because I personally believe that those who used to read a particular newspaper will continue reading it. Newspaper helps in spreading awareness and helps to grow a movement, whether it's students' or mass movement,” she said.

Condemns lathicharge

The social activist also strongly condemned the baton charge by policemen on a group of slum dwellers, mostly women, who had organised a protest march, during the day. The residents of a slum in the Nonadanga area in the eastern flank of the city that was razed to the ground by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) were protesting their eviction on March 30.

“I got the news that male police attacked women slum dwellers of the Nonadanga area. Many women, including a pregnant woman, were injured in the incident. I strongly condemn this incident,” she said.