The Mamata Banerjee-led government's decision to ban all dailies
except eight vernacular newspapers in state-funded libraries to
promote "free thinking" among readers, has drawn widespread
criticism, including from those who once were close to the chief
"The order is totally against democracy and the rule of law and at
the same time it is laughable to say the least. Now the government
will decide what one should read and what not… dailies, which are
well known and have high circulation are off the list… don't know
what next they will come up with," said educationist Sunando
Sanyal, once close to Banerjee and head of the West Bengal
Syllabus Committee for a few months after she came to power last
Sanyal, who staunchly supported Banerjee during her fight against
the erstwhile Left Front regime, said the government was fast
losing trust of people and this order would further damage its
Among the newspapers which have been barred from the state-funded
libraries are the largest circulated Bengali daily Ananda Bazar
Patrika, Bengali dailies Bartamaan and Aajkaal, and leading
English newspapers The Telegraph, The Times of India, The
Statesman and Hindustan Times. In fact, none of the English
dailies feature in the list of newspapers permitted.
"In public interest, the government will not buy newspapers
published or purported to be published by any political party
either national or regional as a measure to develop free thinking
among the readers," reads the March 14 order issued by the
department of mass education extension and library services.
The circular has specified eight newspapers that henceforth will
only be available which includes five Bengali, one Hindi and two
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Anisur Rahman
described the order as an "unpardonable offence". The opposition
Left Front Tuesday protested in the state assembly against the
The Congress also came down heavily on the decision.
"The government cannot decide what the people will read and what
not. It is an intrusion on the freedom of reading. We will protest
this move," said Pradip Bhattacharya, State Congress president.
Civil rights activist Sujato Bhadra also criticised the move and
termed it as an "attack on democracy and the freedom of people".
The order which seeks to promote "free reading", however, has on
the list, a Bengali newspaper owned by the family of a Rajya
Sabha (RS) lawmaker from the Trinamool Congress and its associate
editor has recently been elected to the upper house of Parliament
on a party ticket.
Also on the list are a Hindi and an Urdu newspaper whose managing
director and a senior journalist, respectively, have also been
elected to the upper house of parliament as Trinamool Congress
Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman, a known Banerjee baiter, said:
"The government wants to show how much power it can wield. It
wants to prove that it can do whatever it wants to. But it will
soon realise that it cannot go on doing things which are
unacceptable by the people."
In the wake of widespread criticism, Library Services Minister
Abdul Karim Chowdhury who reportedly was summoned by Banerjee
Wednesday, defended the decision.
"The government has a policy. We are implementing it. The order
has been passed following all rules and regulations," said
Chowdhury after the nearly hour-long meeting.