A Jadavpur University professor was arrested today for allegedly posting a cartoon on the internet showing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in poor light after she forced out Dinesh Trivedi and put Mukul Roy in his place as Railway minister.
The arrest of Ambikesh Mohapatra,a Chemistry professor,sparked outrage with opposition CPI(M) and the academic community saying the police action was “atrocious” and a “clear assault” on the minimum democratic right of the freedom of expression. The professor was later granted bail by an Alipore court.
After his release,the professor alleged he had been beaten up last night by a Trinamool supporters who also made him sign a document where he was forced to write that he was a member of the CPI(M). They also made him ‘confess’ that he had deliberately circulated the cartoon by mail before handing him to the police,Mohapatra said.
The professor was arrested along with his neighbour. They were booked under offences that were bailable at the police station,but the two were kept in lock-up the whole night and produced in court today afternoon.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later defended the arrest and blamed the CPI(M) for raising trivial issues to “malign” her.
“They don’t do any work but think of ways to frame me,” Banerjee said,targetting the CPI(M) hours after the police action that led to strong condemnation from the academic community and the Left.
“…They commit crimes and once people are arrested they run it on their channels for the whole day,” she said at a public event. The Trinamool Congress supremo warned this will not be allowed to go on.
Defending the police action,state Transport Minister Madan Mitra alleged a conspiracy had been hatched to humiliate and malign the chief minister.
Describing Jadavpur University as a ‘den of Maoists’,Mitra said “besides being educated,one must learn how to be civilised.” “It is unethical to spread canards against any person,” he said.
Describing the act in ‘bad taste’,the minister asked scribes to bring similar instances to the notice of the government.
Protests were held by students and the professor’s colleagues at the Jadavpur University campus here.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Suburban Division) Sujay Chanda said the professor was arrested along with a neighbour residing in east Jadavpur for spreading derogatory messages against “respectable persons” on a popular social networking site.
Mohapatra was charged with IPC offences relating to defamation and insulting the modesty of women as well as cyber crime offences,the police said.
Labour Minister Purnendu Bose justified the arrest. He argued that the objectionable content was not a cartoon,but real pictures,which were nothing but an insult. “The law will take its own course,” he said.
The cartoon in question,which was also sent by e-mail,showed the chief minister and the railway minister apparently exchanging dialogues from the Bengali classic ‘Sonar Kella’,a detective masterpiece by Satyajit Ray,which alluded to the replacement of Trivedi by Roy as Railway minister.
“The arrest is a clear assault on the democratic right of freedom of expression. It is like what happened during Emergency,” CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said.
Karat’s party colleague Md Salim said the police action was ridiculous and atrocious.
Rebel Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman,who has fallen foul of party supremo Mamata Banerjee for his controversial statements,slammed the police for the arrests.
“What has been forwarded in the website is an innocent expression and it is difficult to accept that a person can be arrested on the basis of this,” he said.
Educationist Sunanda Sanyal,who has parted ways with Banerjee in recent times,condemned the arrest and said it was made “on a flimsy ground”.
Noted writer Sunil Gangopadhyay said the arrests were a pointer to the dictatorial attitude of the ruling party “which is ominous”.
“I fail to understand how arrests can be made over cartoons which are natural expressions in a democracy and want to know when politicians will learn to ignore cartoons.”
Political parties slam Trinamool for arrest
The CPI(M),BJP and Congress today joined in a chorus to flay the Mamata Banerjee government for setting a “dangerous trend of silencing cartoonists” by arresting them for criticising political leaders.
Expressing surprise at the arrest of the professor,Leader of Opposition Suryakanta Mishra said,”It shows the state government has poor knowledge about the right of expression.” The CPI(M) leader described the police action as “unprecedented”.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha said there had been “dangerous cartoons” in the past against Indira Gandhi,Atal Behari Vajpayee,L K Advani,Jyoti Basu and others “but no political party took any action against any cartoonist”. “Are we really heading for a party-sponsored emergency?” Sinha said.
The Congress too disapproved of the arrest. Party spokesman Manish Tewari said the Congress believes in the freedom of expression granted by the Constitution which was intrinsic to the democratic ethos of the country. State Congress’ Om Prakash Mishra dubbed the arrest as “unfortunate”.