West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee feels some newspapers have become too political. So, the state government has banned several newspapers, including Hindustan Times, in the state-owned and state-funded libraries triggering protests from all sections of civil society.
Protests have erupted from different corners, even from those intellectuals who support the Trinamool Congress government. Congress, the main ally of the ruling party, has criticised the decision too.
Following a government order dated March 14, 2012 the state directed that only eight selected newspapers will be purchased by the state-owned and state-funded libraries in West Bengal. All the eight newspapers featuring in government list are vernacular – five Bengali one Hindi and two Urdu newspapers.
This means, there will be no English newspapers in the 2,060 state-owned and 422 state sponsored public libraries across the state.
The West Bengal library services minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury met chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the secretariat during the day and held a meeting over the waves of protests. Emerging out of the meeting he clarified that the circualar will not be withdrawn.
"In public interest, government will not buy newspapers published or purported to be published by any political party either national or regional as a measure to develop free thinking among the readers," the circular stated.
The state government's hypocrisy has been exposed.
Incidentally, two Bengali newspapers, which state government feels should be continued in the libraries, are headed by two Trinamool Congress members of Rajya Sabha. One Hindi newspaper and an Urdu newspaper featured in the list, too are headed by two other Rajya Sabha members on Trinamool ticket.
"The decision is inevitable. A woman, who is a product of emergency period, leads the government. She joined the Congress under Shidharta Shankar Ray's regime and generated a feeling of the emergency rule in her youth age. An anti-democratic measure like censorship on newspapers is very much expected from her," said Mohammed Salim CPI(M) central committee member.
"The government cannot ban any newspaper or choose any particular newspaper for the readers of a public library. I do not have any idea why she did this mischief. She is trying to control what I read. It is against democracy," said West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Pradip Bhattacharya.
Not only the oppositions, even Mamata Banerjee faced criticisms from her own party rank.
"I was not aware of the decision, otherwise I would have protested. Now I would still demand for withdrawal of the circular," said prominent singer and rebel Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman.
Even pro Trinamool Congress painter and sculptor, Suvaprasanna, criticised the decision.
"This is not right. Very one has a right to get opinions from difrerent sources and newspapes too have the right to express their own views," he said.