Human Rights body asks WB govt to compensate professor

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Kolkata, Aug 14: The West Bengal Human Rights Commission has asked the state government to pay Rs 50,000 each to former university professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbour Subrata Sengupta as compensation for their arrest in the midnight for circulating a cartoon lampooning the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, and two of her ministers, through mail.

The commission, which had taken a suo motu cognisance of the case, also recommended departmental inquiry against the two police officers of Jadavpur police station who arrested the two.

Former Supreme Court judge Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly, who is heading the commission, said the government should compensate the duo for the way in which they were arrested from their residence for a non-cognisable offence. The commission asked the state government to pay the compensation within six weeks.

Professor Mahapatra, while reacting to the commission's recommendations, demanded punishment for those who registered the complaint and ordered the police to take action against them. He alleged the police had been asked to take a such step by some powerful people.

The commission expressed a strong view on the incident. It said citizens who criticised the ruling party could not be lifted from their residence by the police at will. It said if such a trend was allowed to set in, Bengal would soon find itself being ruled by a totalitarian regime and it could not remain a silent spectator to such a sorry situation.

Mahapatra and Sengupta were allegedly assaulted for forwarding cartoons of Mamata Banerjee following the sacking of Dinesh Trivedi, a member of the Trinamool Congress, as the Railway Minister for raising train fares. The professor was arrested on Apr 19 and produced in an Alipore court. He was released on bail but only after a written statement, which Mahapatra claimed he was forced to write, saying that he was an active member of the CPI(M). The state government sources said the cartoons hinted at a conspiracy to kill.

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