The arrest of a person who questioned the West Bengal government’s policies for farmers at a rally addressed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Jangalmahal region recently drew sharp criticism here on Sunday. Various sections said the arrest and Ms. Banerjee’s remarks describing the man as a Maoist demonstrated “yet again” her “intolerance of dissent.”
Shiladitya Chowdhury, a resident of Binpur in Paschim Medinipur district, was escorted out of the congregation by security personnel at Belpahari on August 8 at the instance of Ms. Banerjee after he said the government was not doing enough for farmers who were dying because of rising fertilizer prices. He was later arrested and a district court remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days on Saturday.
“He was simply stating his views. I believe that the police should not have arrested him,” Magsaysay award winning author Mahasweta Devi, who was once a close associate of Ms. Banerjee, told The Hindu.
She said she understood that the Chief Minister’s security was of paramount importance, “but the incident is unfortunate and it would have been better had it not happened.”
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Surya Kanta Mishra said the Chief Minister should demonstrate patience and tolerance toward people who do not agree with her, instead of reacting in this manner.
“The Chief Minister wants that every person should be a yes-man and for the first time is facing a situation where not everyone agrees with her… She should be careful for, such actions only cause harm to her image and decrease the regard that the people have for the Chief Minister,” he said.
Not only the Opposition, but also leaders of the Congress, which is a constituent of the ruling coalition in the State, were vocal in their criticism of the action taken by the police.
“The incident is an example of the paranoia of the government, which cannot even take an ounce of criticism from a poor villager,” said Omprakash Mishra, general secretary of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.