Adding fresh ammunition to a section of the city’s intellectuals who accuse chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s government of growing intolerance to criticism and dissent, Kolkata Police arrested a Jadavpur University professor and his neighbour on Friday for sending e-mails that allegedly show her and railway minister, Mukul Roy, in poor light.
A file photograph of JU professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, arrested for circulating Mamata's cartoon. Courtesy: Facebook/HT
Police arrested Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of chemistry of Jadavpur University for 17 years and Subrata Sengupta and slapped sections of IPC and IT Act against them. Both were granted bail on a personal bond of Rs. 500 each by the Alipore court.
“If one commits an offence, he has to face arrest. Conspiracies won’t be tolerated,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the afternoon.
“I am not repentant for my act,” Mahapatra said in the evening. He told the media that his house was stormed by several Trinamool Congress supporters on Thursday evening, and they forced him to write a letter declaring he was a CPI(M) supporter and had deliberately sent the e-mail.
The 'cartoon' that led to JU professor's arrest. From top to bottom: 1. Mamata Banerjee points to Indian Railways' logo and tells Mukul Roy: See Mukul, the Golden Fortress; 2. Mukul Roy points to former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi and exclaims: That's an evil man!!!; 3. Mamata says: Evil man, vanish!
The professor alleged, he had to beg for his life when the Trinamool supporters descended on him.
Both the Congress and BJP criticised the police action.
The police slapped IPC sections 500 (punishment of defamation), 509 (make obsence gesture to a woman), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), and sections 66 A and B (sending offensive communication) of the IT Act.
Sengupta was arrested as Mahapatra used his e-mail to send the mails. Sungupta is the secretary of the housing society in New Garia, where Mahapatra lives. The e-mail Mahapatra used is that of the society.
Mahapatra also claimed the police never told him that he could obtain bail from the East Jadavpur police station itself where he was taken on Thursday night. Incidentally, all the sections of IPC and IT Act slapped against Mahapatra and Sengupta were bailable sections, which means the accused could take bails from the police station without being produced to the court.
The ‘cartoon’ in question has been doing the rounds in West Bengal soon after Mamata forced Dinesh Trivedi out of the rail ministry and put Roy in his place. The ‘cartoon’ uses three short dialogues from Satyajit Ray's detective masterpiece on celluloid, Sonar Kella, to depict how the chief minister engineered a vanishing trick on Trivedi.
“The arrest is ridiculous. It is politically motivated,” said Mahapatra’s wife, Jolly, who teaches chemistry in Kolkata’s Gurudas College.
Both labour minister Purnendu Bose and transport minister Madan Mitra, however, defended police action maintaining the e-mail was in bad taste. “Jadavpur University is becoming a hotbed of wannabe Maoists under the guise of academics.
Investigation would reveal it easily,” remarked Mitra.
After the news of Mahapatra’s arrest spread at noon, the university was alive with protests from students. All student unions except Trinamool Chhatra Parishad demonstrated and slapped posters against the professor’s arrest.
According to Jadavpur University sources, police arrived at the scene when the Trinamool supporters were heckling the professor. Police picked him up and took him to the East Jadavpur police station. He was shown arrested on Friday morning.
Mahapatra’s arrest came just after a day of the police arresting seven members of human rights organization APDR, who had gathered at Hazra in south Kolkata to protest against the eviction of about 200 families from Nonadanga and release of political prisoners. On Thursday evening, several pro-change intellectuals gathered in Kolkata to criticise police action against the APDR rally.