Jhargram, West Bengal:
The farmer who was arrested after he asked chief minister Mamata Banerjee a question about her policies at a public rally in Bengal has been denied bail.
On Wednesday, Ms Banerjee addressed a public meeting in West Midnapore, once a Naxal stronghold. After her speech, she asked the public, as she often does, if there were any questions.
That's when a farmer in his 40s, Shiladitya Chowdhury asked, "What are you doing for farmers? Farmers are dying because they have no money. Empty promises are not enough."
The chief minister reacted angrily, and said the farmer appeared to a Naxal. He was taken away immediately by the police. He was then released but was arrested from his home on Friday night for trying to disrupt the chief minister's meeting. Non-bailable charges against him include criminal intimidation and physically preventing a police officer from doing his duty.
His lawyer argued in a local court in Jhargram in West Bengal that his client has tuberculosis, and that there was no evidence to substantiate charges against him. Railways Minister Mukul Roy, who is from Ms Banerjee's party, said the farmer was drunk. "He tried to disturb the meeting in Belpahari, which is the highest Maoist-prone area. He broke the barricade in the z-plus security zone. He was drunk and pushed police officers and women and used threatening language," Mr Roy told Press Trust of India. "Anyone has a right to ask questions. But he did not ask any question. He was just shouting. I was present there," he added. Derek O' Brien, an MP from Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, said that there was the chief minister's office had not instructed the police to arrest Mr Chowdhury. "Security was keeping a close watch on the crowd when they noticed the man along with six or seven others continuously heckling the Chief Minister and also preventing them from discharging their duties and attempting to disturb the peace at the rally," Mr O'Brien said, according to Press Trust of India.
The opposition in Bengal has criticised Ms Banerjee for her intolerance; Markandey Katju, who is the chairman of the Press Council of India, attacked her for "blatant misuse of state machinery" and for violating basic constitutional and human rights.
In another case where Ms Banerjee was widely criticised for her intolerance of any criticism, a professor in Bengal was arrested in April for forwarding a cartoon that featured her. Today, the West Bengal Human Rights has recommended that the state government pay Rs 2000 each to Professor Ambarish Mahapatra and his neighbour Subroto Roy who were both arrested for sharing the cartoon online. The Commission has also recommended departmental action against two senior police officers who executed the arrests. (Mamata cartoon controversy: Human Rights Commission slams arrest of professor