The mercurial West Bengal Chief
Minister Mamata Banerjee is once again in spotlight for her
eccentricities, when she ordered the arrest of a man who asked her
a question of farmer’s welfare in her public meeting.
Ms Banerjee addressed a public meeting at Belpahari in the once
Maoist-dominated district of West Midnapore. After her speech, she
asked the public, as she often does, if they had any questions for
That's when Shiladitya Chowdhury, a farmer in his 40s, said, "What
are you doing for farmers? Farmers are dying because they have no
money. Empty promises are not enough."
Surprised by the farmer's question, Ms Banerjee reacted angrily
and said the man must be a Maoist. The police immediately nabbed
Chowdhry who was let off after initial questioning. Later Chowdhry
was arrested again from his home on charges of trying to disrupt
the Chief Minister's meeting.
Mamata Banerjee’s dictatorial rule has attracted ire from several
quarters. The Press Council of India chief Markendey Katju has
described West Bengal Chief Minister as intolerant and whimsical.
Katju said the arrest of Siladitya Chowdhury, amounted to "blatant
misuse" of state machinery and "flagrant violation" of
constitutional and human rights.
Justice Katju criticized Mamata Banerjee’s action saying, “it was
most undemocratic to say the least." He went on to add that the
Trinamool Congress chief is totally undeserving to be a political
leader in a democratic country like India since she has no respect
for constitutional and civil rights of citizens and is totally
dictatorial, intolerant, and whimsical in her behavior."
The former Supreme Court judge cautioned the administrative and
police authorities against taking "illegal orders", warning that
they could suffer the same fate as Nazi criminals did for acting
on Hitler's directions.
"At the Nuremburg Trials the Nazi war criminals took the plea that
orders were orders and they were only carrying out the orders of
Hitler, their superior, but this plea was rejected and they were
hanged. The West Bengal officials should take a lesson from the
Nuremburg verdict if they do not wish to suffer a similar fate,"
Jistice Katju said the Chief Minister has behaved in a high handed
and dictatorial manner earlier too. “On May 19, she had branded a
college student Taniya Bharadwaj during a TV programme as a
Maoist, merely because she questioned about what she was doing
about the security of women after the Park Street rape of an
Anglo-Indian woman. She had also got one Jadavpur University
Professor arrested for drawing a cartoon of her”, Katju said.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Nilotpal Basu took
potshots at the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) over the farmer's
arrest. “There is very little difference today between intolerance
and authoritarianism,” said Nilotpal Basu who described the step
as reflective of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's dictatorial
The BJP also slammed Ms Banerjee for her action. The party said
politicians should learn to answer such questions at public
The farmers in West Bengal like elsewhere in the country are a
pathetic lot. They at the receiving end especially the marginal
farmers because input costs have gone up for agricultural
production and they do not get the price of the agricultural
products, which they produce. The draught situation in the country
has further aggravated their problems.
In such backdrop the farmer’s questions to its elected
representative about solving their problem was not undemocratic.
On the contrary his arrest doing so was an undemocratic act.
Is Mamata Banerjee driving the peasants of West Bengal to
situation in late sixties, when the serious agrarian crisis was
silenced by the then Congress regime, through the barrel of the
gun? It was that fodder that gave gist to the CPI (M) to rule West
Bengal for 35 years.
The arbitrary arrest of the farmer is preparing similar situation.
The euphoria on which Mamata Banrjee rode to power is fast getting
eroded. People are coming to terms with Trinamool Chief’s
eccentricities. If similar highhandedness continues to rule the
roost, it’s almost certain that West Bengal is again going into
the laps of the opposition for an uncertain period of time.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org