The West Bengal government has said it will not reverse an order that instructs 2500 public libraries on what newspapers they can stock. Several leading papers including the Ananda Bazar Patrika and all English dailies have been dropped. "This is worse than censorship; this has shades of fascism," said Sitaram Yechury from the Left, the main opposition party in West Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has appreciated the move, countered Library Services Minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury.
The government has said that it will; not allow public funds to be spent on "any papers published or purported to be published by any political party." But among the papers that have made the cut are four whose editor or senior journalist have have been elected to the Rajya Sabha as representatives of Ms Banerjee's party, the Trinamool Congress.
Among the newspapers which have been barred from the state-funded libraries are the largest circulated Bengali daily Ananda Bazar Patrika, Bengali dailies Bartamaan and Aajkaal, and all English newspapers including The Telegraph, The Times of India, The Statesman and Hindustan Times. The list includes only one publication with direct links to a political party- the Ganashakti, which is a CPM mouthpiece.
The eight newspapers that will be carried by libraries include five Bengali, one Hindi and two Urdu dailies.
"I have no idea why she has done this; she is trying to control what I read," said the Congress state president, Pradeep Bhattacharjee.
"Only papers that are supporting the TMC are being kept here. We protest this," said Sushanto Seth a regular visitor at libraries.
The issue was also brought up in the state Assembly yesterday by a Congress MLA who called the government circular undemocratic and urged the chief minister to have it withdrawn. Mamata Banerjee was not present in the Assembly at that time.