New Delhi: Leading scientists from India and abroad as well as other public personalities have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, condemning the police action against two West Bengal-based scientists. One of them is Partho Sarathi Ray, a molecular biologist, who was arrested earlier this month over his alleged role in protests against recent evictions from a slum; the other is a Jadavpur University professor who was arrested last week in connection with the controversial cartoon of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
More than 30 activists and scientists, in their letter dated April 15, have sought the Prime Minister's intervention to get Dr Ray released. The academician, along with 68 others, was arrested on April 8 after he participated in a protest against the eviction drive at the Nonadanga slum in east Kolkata. While 62 were released in the evening, Dr Ray and six others continued to remain in custody. The biologist has been remanded to judicial custody till April 26.
Ironically, Dr Ray has been charged with assaulting policemen during a lathicharge on protestors in Kolkata on April 4. He was, however, not present during the protests on that day. In fact, the biologist was taking classes at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Mohanpur in Nadia district, a two-hour drive from Kolkata.
The incident has outraged the scientists and activists who, in their appeal to the PM, have said that they are "extremely perturbed" by the crackdown on citizens "attempting to raise issues of concern related to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people". Some of the notable signatories include social activist and member of the National Advisory Council, Aruna Roy and activist Nikhil Dey.
The arrest of Ambikesh Mahapatra, a chemistry professor at the prestigious Jadavpur University, had also invited strong criticism from across the state. Mr Mahapatra was arrested on Thursday night for forwarding anti-Mamata Banerjee cartoons via email to about 65 people. The cartoon shows Ms Banerjee along with now Railway Minister Mukul Roy, planning how to get rid of party MP and Mr Roy's predecessor, Dinesh Trivedi. The professor was charged with eve-teasing (Section 509 of the IPC), defamation (Section 500 of the IPC), humiliating a woman (Section 114 of the IPC) and causing offence using a computer (Section 66 A (b) of the IT Act).
Speaking to NDTV earlier, professor Mahapatra had said that he was still "traumatised" by the incident and felt insecure.
The professor also said that he did not feel that he had done anything wrong, adding that he had already apologised for sending the mail.