Two graffiti artists, in their twenties and affiliated to the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the students’ wing of CPM, were put behind bars for allegedly writing objectionable comments against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
On April 15, they wrote couplets on the walls, which EC officials found objectionable and asked them to remove it. The duo said they followed EC’s orders.
However, state food supplies minister Jyotipriya Mullick, who heads the North-24 Parganas unit of TMC, lodged a complaint against the duo — Abhijit Halder and Samik Das — and had them arrested on April 19.
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The duo surrendered on April 19 at Maslandpur outpost and were taken to Habra Police Station. They were later produced at the Barasat court and were granted bail.
The graffiti comprised eight couplets criticising the state government and included lines such as ‘Bolchhe ekhon Janata, boro chor _____’ and ‘Pass korte TET, Nabanna chai bhet’. The two claimed that although the first hinted at CM Mamata Banerjee, her name was not mentioned anywhere. “We had kept it blank but someone incorporated the CM’s name, clicked pictures and sent it to the police,” Halder said.
A resident of Tinamtala at Maslandpur, Abhijit Halder is a second-year BA student of Gobardanga Hindu College. His family comprises his parents, a younger brother and a grandmother. “My father, a farmer, is the sole bread earner and because I am good with calligraphy, I find it a good opportunity to earn extra money during polls,” Halder said.
Shamik Das, who reportedly dropped out of college owing to financial crunch in the family, tried working at a call centre for some time and when health didn’t permit he left it and joined his family business of canework.
“I was naturally scared to get summons from the police. We were writing it both as party supporters and for money. The incident of (Jadavpur University professor ) Ambikesh Mahapatra, too, did not occur to me at that time,” he said.
Mullick, however, negated their claims and said they were arrested only after complaints were lodged.
“How did we get the pictures if they had been summoned earlier? It was after we took the pictures and submitted it to the police and administrative officials, had they been removed. It had been done under the instructions of Bongaon’s CPM candidate Debesh Das. After elections, we will file a defamation suit against the CPM and the SFI at the Calcutta High Court,” he said.
Das said the TMC was overreacting. “The writings were removed after EC instructions and then Mullick used the police to get them arrested. The TMC is anticipating a loss and has reacted in such a manner,” he added.