Tuesday, May 24, 2022

'Violent Suppression Of Protest'

Letter to the PM protesting against the developments in West Bengal — arrest of Dr. Partho Sarothi Roy, a young molecular biologist, and the treatment meted out to Professor Ambikash Mahapatra

'Violent Suppression Of Protest'

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
South Block
New Delhi

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,

This is to bring to your immediate attention of the detention of an eminent and internationally acclaimed scientist Dr. Partho Sarothi Ray along with several other citizens by the Kolkata Police. Dr. Partho Sarothi Ray is an established scientist in the field of molecular biology, his scientific research findings have been published in world class journals including Nature. He has also been awarded the Welcome Trust-India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship in 2010 which is one of the most prestigious honors that a young life scientist in India can receive. Dr. Ray is a faculty of IISER Kolkata, one of the esteemed institutions of higher learning in India under MHRD.

You might be aware that, recently the Government of West Bengal has undertaken a massive eviction drive of slum dwellers with police force without any rehabilitation measures. As a natural protest against this unjustified police action, there were peaceful demonstrations by concerned citizens, for which prior permissions were arranged to the local police. In spite of this, Kolkata police used force and unjustified means to crack down on the demonstrators. It was while participating in a peaceful protest against the eviction of slum dwellers of Nonadanga area of East Kolkata, Dr. Ray was arrested along with 68 others including several women and a 9 year old girl on Sunday, April 8, 2012. Of those arrested, 7 people including Dr. Ray have been detained in police custody for several days, and now six of them are put in judicial custody and one in CID custody. In order to justify its high-handedness, the police slapped many dubious cases against Dr. Ray and others, such as Section 353 (assault on public servant), Section 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to public servant), Section 141 (unlawful assembly), Section 143 (punishment), Section 149 (common objective of disruption) of the IPC. The relation of these charges with the events (or lack thereof) of either 4th or peaceful demonstrations of 8th April has not been made clear at all. We are extremely concerned of the treatment meted out to Dr. Ray and others.

Incidentally, the excess of police has clearly not ended. On 12th April, 2012 human rights activists were attacked and later arrested at a demonstration against the illegal evictions and the detention of Dr. Ray and others. Furthermore recent media reports reveal that on April 13, 2012, Professor Ambikash Mahapatra, a faculty in Chemistry Department from Jadavpur University was first beaten up mercilessly by goons for an action which was as innocuous as forwarding an email to his friends whose content constituted a cartoon that had already been posted on Facebook a few weeks back. It is frightening to note that instead of taking action against the assaulters, West-Bengal Police arrested Prof. Mahapatra. He was charged for forwarding to his acquaintances a political caricature and kept in police custody for a night in spite being charged under bail-able sections of the Indian Penal Code.

This, in our opinion, constitutes a clear violation of freedom of speech and all conceivable rights of an individual due to illegal action by the state police. The state administration has issued public statements in both print and electronic media in support of this barbaric act.

We are extremely perturbed by such use of State force in cracking down on human rights activists, and citizens attempting to raise issues of concern related to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people of our country or for actions such as forwarding cartoons (which had already been put earlier on popular internet websites such as Facebook). While we should be making space to protect voices of conscience, especially when they come from those who hold positions of eminence in various fields, we find that the apparatus of the State is using the law and its modes of intimidation to stifle such voices. This violent suppression of protest appears also to be an attempt to threaten those who might raise their voice in dissent.

It would therefore help if you could personally intervene to resolve these matters urgently. We fear that this approach of the State has serious implications not only for the events occurring in Kolkata but for the larger democratic ideals which this country espouses. In particular, we request that Dr. Partho Sarothi Ray and others be granted bail immediately. We also urge that all the dubious charges placed against Dr. Ray, Prof. Mahapatra and the other protestors be dropped and an impartial enquiry by a central agency be conducted into these matters to prevent any further violation of human rights.

With thanks and regards,
Yours sincerely,

Aruna Roy
Prof. T. A. Abhinandan, IISc, Bangalore
Dr. Ayan Banerjee, IISER, Kolkata
Prof. Narayan Banerjee, IISER Kolkata
Dr. Bhavatosh Bansal, IISER, Kolkata
Dr. Anindita Bhadra, IISER, Kolkata
Prof. Kirill Bolotin, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Swapan Chakrabarti, Calcutta University
Prof. Noam Chomsky, MIT, USA
Prof. Bhanu Das, IAA, Bangalore
Dr. Ananda Dasgupta, ISER Kolkata
Prof. Indra DasGupta, IACS, Kolkata
Dr. Jyotirmoyee Dash, IISER Kolkata
Dr. Subhadeep De, NIST, Maryland, USA
Prof. Bimalendu Deb, IACS, Kolkata
Prof. Aparna DuttaGupta, HCU, Hyderabad
Dr. Nirmalya Ghosh, IISER, Kolkata
Dr. Saikat Ghosh, SNBNCBS, Kolkata
Vrinda Grover, Human Rights lawyer
Dr. Parna Gupta, IISER, Kolkata
Prof. Shubhashish Dutta Gupta, HCU, Hyderabad
Dr. Siddhartha S. Jana IACS, Kolkata
Prof. Paul Krapivsky, Boston University, USA
Dr. Ananda Lakshmi, Chennai
Prof. Ludvig Lizana, Umea University, Sweden
Prof. Priya Mahadevan, SNBNCBS, Kolkata
Mayna Majumdar, Editor - Katha, Kolkata
Prof. Sanjoy Majumdar, IIT, Kharagpur
Harsh Mander, Member NAC
Prof. Babu Mathew, NLU Delhi
Prof. Pnina Motzafi-Haller , Ben Gurion University, Israel
Prof. Debashis Mukherjee, IACS, Kolkata
Dr. Himadri Mukherjee, IISER Kolkata
Dr. Manas Mukherjee, NUS, Singapore
Dr. Sharvari Nadkarni-Ghosh, SNBCBS, Kolkata
Prof. Ashok Nanda, IISER Kolkata
Dr. Rajendran Narayanan, Cornell University, USA Dr. Shree Pandey, IISER Kolkata
Dr. Ayan Paul, IACS, Kolkata
Dr. Mohit Prasad, IISER Kolkata
Prof. Arnab RaiChaudhuri, IISc, Bangalore
Prof. Manju Ray, CSIR-Emeritus Professor, Bose Institute, Kolkata
Dr. Sugato Ray, IACS, Kolkata
Aruna Roy, MKSS
Prof. Jayasri Das Sarma, IISER, Kolkata
Prof. Surajit Sen, G. C. College, Silchar
Prof. Krishnendu Sengupta, IACS, Kolkata
Dr. Supratim Sengupta, IISER, Kolkata
Dr. Shiv Shethi, RRI, Bangalore
Prof. Pragya Shukla, IIT, Kharagpur
Prof. Rahul Siddharthan, IMSc, Chennai
Dr. Vishal Sood, Copenhagen
Kavita Srivastava, PUCL
Prof. Abha Sur, MIT, USA
Prof. Mriganka Sur, MIT, USA Dr. Malancha Ta, IISER Kolkata