‘CM trying to curb freedom of speech’

KOLKATA, 16 NOV: The members of Association For Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), Matangini Mahila Samiti, All Bengal Students Union (ABSU) and academicians today said in a Press conference that chief minister, Miss Mamata Banerjee, is trying to curb freedom of speech and expression by cracking down on peaceful protestors across the states.
“Miss Banerjee has been speaking ill about our organisation, threatening us and branding us as Maoists. Similar tactics were resorted to by the CPI-M when it was in power. It is just an excuse to stifle voices against the government’s ills,” said Ms Deblina Chakraborty, secretary of the Matangini Mahila Samiti.
She said that Miss Mamata Banerjee should know that according to the Supreme Court, mere possession of materials eulogising Maoist ideologies could not be considered sedition.
Miss Banerjee during her Purulia visit had launched a tirade against the “Maoist sympathisers” operating from Kolkata, including “two Jadavpur University professors”. “Those who are trying to glorify the Maoists would be arrested,” Miss Banerjee said and cautioned the people against All Bengal Students Union and Matangini Brigade, which she claimed were working at the their behest. The Centre has banned the Maoists. Action would be taken against those who would be supporting them and colluding with them, the chief minister had said.
Ms Chakraborty said that the five students arrested from Nandan and then the arrest of 107 medical students yesterday were undemocratic moves. “The government is trying to gag all the voices that are raised against its wrong policies and oppressive measures,” she added. Mr Amit Bhattacharya, professor of Jadavpur University, said that the chief minister during her speeches had made clear that she wants to brand us as informers. “We want to tell her. We are not informers. We will never be informers to anybody,” he said adding the chief minister should come out clean on the names of the “sympathisers” she had been threatening.
Ms Chakraborty said that more than 150 children died in hospitals in Malda, the new ordinance on education takes away the rights of the teachers and students. But she has been silent on both the issues. The CM is bringing Jindal’s iron ore plant where there should be Kangshabati irrigation project, there are more trains, but no rail lines and so no connectivity. “All her projects are just an eyewash. Her policy is no different from that of the previous government’s. Neither did she release political prisoners nor did she withdraw joint forces from Junglemahal,” added Mr Prasanta Haldar, South Kolkata representative of APDR.
The government should build a conducive environment for discussion with the Maoists. “She should be transparent and sit for talks since Maoism is not a law and order problem, but a problem deep-rooted in the socio-economy of Junglemahal. But the CM doesn’t even have time for that,” Mr Bhattacharya added.
Protesting against the state government’s threats to several mass organisations for the Junglemahal killings, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), along with other civil rights organisations, will hold a protest meeting at BBD Bag tomorrow from 1 pm to 4 pm.
A similar gathering will be held at Metro Channel on 23 and 24 demanding withdrawal of joint forces from Junglemahal and release of political prisoners.
Referring to Miss Banerjee’s statement that Maoists were more dangerous than terrorists, members of APDR said that the chief minister should remember that she had held meetings with these same terrorists months back.

Soma Basu

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