HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, April 15, 2012
A day after a university professor was arrested, in an unprecedented event, for e-mailing a cartoon of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Kolkata reacted with outrage, using protest marches, online spoofs and mocking rhymes to vent their anger both online and offline.
Ripples spread across India, with activists Medha Patkar and Binayak Sen among those expressing shock, and with jokes, poems and more cartoons circulating online with tags that invited recipients to ‘join the world of cyber crime’.
While four activist of Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress party were arrested for allegedly assaulting professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and forcing him to write out a ‘confession’ on Thursday night, the move did little to quell the anger – especially since the four activists were granted bail within hours on Saturday, while the professor was forced to spend Thursday night in jail.
“I am shocked,” said Medha Patkar, who had shared a dais with Banerjee during her anti-Left movement.
“This incident is unacceptable,” said Sunil Gangopadhyay, one of Bengal’s best-known poets and writers.
“The right to freedom of speech is openly being flouted. These arrests are without any basis,” said doctor and human rights activist Binayak Sen.
“Power has gone too much to her [Banerjee’s] head,” said BD Sharma, mediator in the recent Italian hostage crisis in Odisha.
Added civil rights activist Rajinder Sachar: “If the caricature was defamatory, one could have approached the courts. But using the police is not justified.”
Mahapatra also reacted with defiance. “I am not sorry and will again send such emails in the future,” he said on Saturday, simultaneously saying he feared for his life.