Within hours of being released from jail, molecular biologist Partho Sarothi Ray said democracy is in peril in West Bengal. “This is not a change we voted for.”
Ray was arrested on April 8 for being involved in a clash with the police during a protest against the eviction of around 200 families from Nonadanga by the state government.
A number of intellectuals including Noam Chomsky had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the release of Ray, assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Resea-rch. Finally on Wednesday, he was granted bail.
“I have always considered standing by the poor and the marginalised, and on the side of justice, as a duty and a responsibility,” Ray said at a media conference at the Kolkata Press Club on Wednesday. “If it is a crime in West Bengal, I can only say we are living in dark days.”
Ray’s outburst follows a barrage of criticism against the government over the cartoon controversy. The state's intelligentsia, which had voted for “change”, felt let down following the arrest of Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra for e-mailing a spoof on the chief minister.
“Intellectuals who want to speak their minds are being targeted. We never meant to have such a change,” said Ray, adding his voice to the rising chorus against the government's alleged intolerance to dissent, rights of expression and democratic struggles. “I was arrested on a false charge, meant to harass me and destroy the struggle of the people of Nonadanga,” Ray said. Records prove on April 8, he was at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research campus at Kalyani, 70 km from Kolkata, he said.
Six activists arrested on the same charge are still in custody. “I feel I have been lucky, as many prominent personalities spoke for my release,” Ray said.