Support for Srijato: Ambikesh alleges double standard by CM

Questions continuation of criminal case against him
Report by: 
Debanjan Mukherjee
Kolkata
29 Mar 2017

Ambikesh Mahapatro, the Jadavpur University professor who had courted controversy five years back by posting a collage cartoon involving chief minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC MPs Mukul Roy and Dinesh Trivedi, sees Mamata’s support for poet Srijato, who is facing a criminal case for posting a poem on a social networking site as an example of ‘double standard’. Mahapatro also questioned how the state government is still continuing a case against him under a Section of IT Act which was scrapped by the Supreme Court two years back.

In an exclusive interview to the Echo of India, Mahapatro said: “The chief minister is showing her support for Srijato in public but her police registered the FIR against him and also filed a non-bailable case. So how do you explain that? Somebody may express his or her dislike about a certain article and they also have the right to lodge a complaint with the police. But when the police files a case based on that complaint it becomes clear that they want legal action to be taken against him". "So what the chief minister is now saying in support of Srijato is nothing but showing off. Since intellectuals irrespective of their political allegiance have come out in support of Srijato, the chief minister has realized that criticising the poet publicly would convey a negative message about her", Mahapatro added.

While Intellectuals stood by Mahapatro also and the role of the state government was heavily criticized five years back, the chief minister did not pay heed to that criticism at that time. Asked what his take on this was, Mahapatro said: “The reason was simple. A written complaint was logded with the police after my arrest and that letter was written by a member of TMC’s Nayabad Chit Kalikapur Local Committee and hence she could not ignore that complaint.” It deserves mention here that Mohapatro was arrested in April 2012 after a complaint was lodged with the police against him accusing him of maligning the image of the chief minister. Mohapatro’s cartoon had taken a dig at the TMC’s decision of removing Dinesh Trivedi as the railway minister and replacing him with Mukul Roy since Trivedi as then railway minister had proposed some hike in fairs in the railway budget of that year.

“Not only people of Bengal and India but dignitaries from all parts of the world had supported me. They had written to the President of India requesting for withdrawal of the case against me. The then chairman of State Human Rights Commission had criticised my arrest and the High Court had directed the state government to pay a monetary compensation for the harassment I had to face. But the government did nothing”, Mohapatro said and added: “But what hurts me most is that the state administration has still kept a criminal case against me alive at Alipore Court and different lower courts filed under Section 66 A of IT Act, which had been scrapped by the Supreme Court of India on March 24, 2015. My question is how could a criminal case continue when the Section under which it was filed has been removed from the book of law?”

According to Mohapatro, the chief minister’s support for Srijato has come just because his poem was against the appointment of BJP’s Hindutva icon Yogi Adityanath as UP chief minister and because the TMC’s ties with the saffron party has hit a new low recently. “Had the poem criticised any act of this state government, the chief minister’s stand would have been completely different. I can give you several examples of this government’s intolerance towards criticism”, he said.