Bengal democracy in darkness, says scientist Partho Sarothi RayTNN | Apr 19, 2012, 05.24AM IST
KOLKATA: The molecular biologist who was arrested and put behind bars for 10 days for his role in the Nonadanga protests said on Wednesday he was committed to the slum-dwellers' cause. Partho Sarothi Ray insisted at a press conference within hours of walking out of jail that he had been framed, and described the situation in Bengal as a "dark state of democracy".
"I was not on the spot on April 4," Ray said, referring to the police crackdown on a rally by Nonadanga squatters near Ruby Hospital to protest against their eviction. "I was busy in a faculty meeting on the IISER campus, 70km away from Tiljala. The minutes of the meeting are recorded. I stayed on campus that night. Even after producing documentary proof, I was sent to jail. In the process, I lost 10 days of my life," added the scientist, who was granted bail on Tuesday and walked out of Alipore Central Jail at 9.55am on Wednesday. He was charged under stringent IPC sections 143, 147, 149, 186, 283, 332, 336, 341 and 353 for assaulting policemen and provoking people to commit crimes.
Ray, who came to teach at the Indian Institute of Science and Research (IISER) after completing his post-doctoral research at Cleveland, US, admitted the arrest had done immense damage to his career but said it wouldn't deter him from taking up the squatters' cause. "I will go back to Nonadanga. Like before, I will fight until the government provides proper rehabilitation to the hapless evictees," he said.
Ray denied having links with Maoists. "I have always stood by the poor and marginalized and taken their side for justice. If this is a crime in Bengal, and if someone can be implicated in a false case, then it's a telling reminder of the condition of the rule of law."
Ray asked the government to free six people arrested with him but denied bail. "My co-accused are from different backgrounds. One is an engineer while the other is a doctor. Apparently, the state machinery is targeting dissenting voices. If the government wants to show minimum positive attitude, it should first release my six friends and rehabilitate evictees at Nonadanga," he said. Ray also warned of taking legal action against the government.
Recalling his "micro role" in the Singur and Nandigram agitations that were spearheaded byMamata Banerjee, Ray said he couldn't fathom her present policies. "Has anything really changed?" he wondered.
Ray felt political regimes change, but policies don't. "Refusing two offers in the US, I returned in Bengal to work. The Singur movement was then at its peak and I joined the protest. The same feeling towards the hapless evicted people at Nonadanga led me to raise voice against the state's eviction policy what landed me behind bars."
The Indian Institute of Sciences alumnus, who got the largest individual research grant on cancer in 2011 after he joined IISER, was arrested on April 8 when he was part of a sit-in demonstration by Nonadanga squatters. He was sent to judicial custody in connection with the case registered atTiljala police station on April 4. In the complaint, police claimed Ray and six other led a rally of squatters and attacked the cops with lethal weapons.