Intellectuals, West Bengal government on confrontation course


Kolkata : West Bengal’s Left Front government and a section of intellectuals opposed to it seem headed for a stand-off as a top bureaucrat Thursday said those who visited trouble-torn Lalgarh by violating prohibitory orders were liable to be arrested.

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“They have violated section 144 (of the Criminal Procedure Code which prohibits assembly of five or more people) in force in Lalgarh. Everybody is equal before the law. Law does not take into account fame or money power. I don’t know what the court will do but I can say they are liable to be arrested,” state Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty told reporters here.

The delegation of intellectuals under the banner of ‘Swajan’ Sunday visited Lalgarh, a former Maoist-held enclave 200 km from here, where the state government launched a massive security operation June 18 to flush out the leftwing extremists.

The delegation included film-maker Aparna Sen and theatre personalities Kaushik Sen and Shaonli Mitra.

They met some tribal leaders and villagers and later alleged that the security forces were commiting atrocities on innocent people.

They have also written to union Home Minister P. Chidambaram demanding withdrawal of the forces and an immediate ceasefire.

The West Midnapore district administration has already filed a complaint against the intellectuals in the Lalgarh police station alleging they had violated the prohibitory orders.

Expressing surprise at the state government action, Aparna Sen said: “We were in touch with the chief secretary before our visit. He never told us about the prohibitory order. Also, we went there openly. There were a lot of mediapersons with us. Why didn’t the police stop us then?”

Shaonli Mitra said they were awaiting a formal notice from the administration. “Let us receive it. And then we will decide what to do.”

Former chief minister and legal luminary Siddhartha Shankar Roy told Aparna Sen that he would defend them in case of a government crackdown.

The 89-year-old Roy, a former Indian ambassador to the US, said if necessary he would go to the court for the first time in two years and argue their case.