Prominent members of Kolkata's civil society, many of whom were among the 49 people who recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against cow-related mob killings, have now written to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to condemn police action on teachers and the assault on a theatre actor in recent weeks.
Police had stopped some "para teachers" from sitting on dharna at Subodh Mallik Square in Kolkata today. Earlier, these temporary teachers who had gone on hunger strike at Kalyani, 70 km from Kolkata, were allegedly lathi-charged in Kolkata. The teachers are demanding permanent status and a salary hike.
Among the nine civil society signatories are renowned filmmaker-actors Aparna Sen, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Kaushik Sen and Sohag Sen.
"We have been noticing with a great deal of anxiety that, instead of trying to resolve the peaceful democratic protests of teachers of this state through sane dialogue and debate, the administration has been resorting to undemocratic means of quashing these protests through police brutality," the civil society members of the CitizenSpeakIndia forum wrote.
"On 15th August 2019, at the Academy of Fine Arts complex, three small street plays were enacted at the initiative of 'Actors United' in front of a gathering united against communalism and fundamentalism. Shubhankar Das Sharma, a member of 'Actors United', was attacked and beaten by unknown assailants at Dum Dum while returning home at the end of the performance. Some sort of ointment or balm was applied to his eyes in order to blind him temporarily, so as to prevent him from seeing the faces of his assailants and identifying them later. He was not told why he was being beaten," the letter said.
"We feel that such incidents are, in effect, an attack on all artistes propagating free thought and should be condemned with the same severity as any case of lynching anywhere else in India," the letter stated. "We condemn the incidents of violence mentioned above, and request the state administration to identify and punish the perpetrators as swiftly as possible."
When CitizenSpeakIndia condemned the cow-related killings in their letter to PM Modi on July 24, Ms Banerjee had backed their concerns. "I respect them (the 49 letter writers). I think what they have said is quite right. What they have said today, I have been saying it for a long time," she said.
The Chief Minister commented on the teachers' protest today, wondering "what would children learn if teachers go on strike". However, there has been no word from her on the letter from CitizenSpeakIndia yet.
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