Social activists and students of Jadavpur University took out separate processions here on Tuesday in protest against the police action last week against Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of the university, for circulating e-mails containing graphics of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other Trinamool Congress leaders.
Dr. Mahapatra, who was arrested in connection with the incident and subsequently released on bail, was present in both the processions. Students carried placards illustrated with cartoons and caricatures — some directed at the Chief Minister — in the rally brought out by them.
Claiming that he was arrested on frivolous charges, Dr. Mahapatra said: “Personal liberty is under attack with a crackdown on everything, even attempts at making fun.”
Narrating how he was attacked by a group of youths and had to spent a night last Thursday in the local thana he said that he had drawn “strength” from the support of the people who protested against the State's attempts to arrest him.
Some of the social activists and litterateurs, who had rallied behind Ms. Banerjee during the agitation she had led against land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, and supported her during the 2011 Assembly elections, expressed their disillusionment with her government.
“This is not the change we wanted,” Tarun Sanyal, a well-known academician, said.
‘A regular practice'
Pointing out that it had been a regular practice to draw cartoons of famous people, noted writer Mahasweta Devi in a written message said that the “innocent practice” had been given too much attention recently.
“Change has come, I have also contributed to the change by writing tirelessly in the newspapers,” she said.
Professor Tarun Naskar, MLA of the Socialist Unity Centre for India, said the State government had not fulfilled the expectations of the people and only betrayed its faith.
“We are trying to bring the government back on the right track through peoples' movements,” he said.
Choton Das, secretary of the Bandi Mukti Committee, said the activists of the organisation had to protest again and again as the Trinamool Congress' promise of releasing all political prisoners had not been fulfilled.
Students and members of civil society who participated in the rallies raised certain other issues such as eviction of slum-dwellers from Nonadanga in the eastern fringes of the city and the government order restricting the number of newspapers that libraries — run, aided or sponsored by the State — to a prescribed list.