Intellectuals under scanner for Lalgarh links, Mamata threatens stir

As the WB police interrogated top tribal leaders of Lalgarh and suggested their links with some city-based intellectuals , TMC chief Mamata Banerjee threatened a people`s agitation if any intellectual was harassed.

Updated: Oct 05, 2009, 23:00 PM IST

Kolkata: As the West Bengal police interrogated top tribal leaders of Lalgarh and suggested their links with some city-based intellectuals and human rights activists, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Monday threatened a people`s agitation if any intellectual was harassed.

The police top brass, which has been quizzing tribal leader and People`s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) chief Chhattradhar Mahato and assistant treasurer Sukh Shanti Baske in Kolkata, said the PCAPA had received funding from some Kolkata based intellectuals and some of the money landed in the hands of the Maoists.

A senior officer of the state police`s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said the PCAPA received huge funding through some NGOs and the money was utilised to bear the cost of rallies and other expenses to keep the agitation alive.

Besides, Mahato purchased a car for Rs.1.45 lakh which was later found to have been registered under another person`s name.

He said Mahato also used to come to the metropolis often and hold meetings with the NGOs, whose office-bearers also made periodic visits to Lalgarh where the Maoists had set up a virtual free zone since November last.

Police officers conducting the questioning said a South Kolkata-based veteran intellectual had hosted Mahato several times, in what is being perceived as a reference to Magsaysay Award winning litterateur Mahashweta Devi.

Mahashweta conceded that she had met Mahato several times, but claimed she was totally opposed to violence.

"I told Mahato to agitate against SEZ, against improper distribution of BPL ration cards. I said tribal areas should not be handed over to industrialists. But I have never supported violence," she said.

Mahashweta has repeatedly opposed the state`s Communist-led Left Front government for the last two years on issues like Singur and Nandigram under the platform of `Swajan`, which has other intellectuals like dramatist Bratya Basu, theatre personalities Shaonli Mitra and Kaushik Sen and filmmaker Aparna Sen as members.

"Our objective was clear and transparent. We had no intention of helping the Maoists," Kaushik Sen said.

Mitra said during a visit to Lalgarh this year, the Swajan members made it clear to Mahato that it would be difficult for them to support the movement if he kept truck with the Maoists. A police officer said several NGOs under the banner of the Lalgarh Solidarity Committee had also been helping the Maoists through its open forum PCAPA.

"We will first summon them for questioning. Based on what we gather from the initial questioning, we will consider arrest or slapping of charges," he said.

Taking strong exception to the police bringing anti-Left Front intellectuals under the scanner, the Trinamool president said: "People of Bengal will launch a virulent protest if people like Mahashweta Devi or Saonli Mitra are touched."

"The PCAPA is not a banned organisation. We all supported the tribal movement that began as a protest against police torture. These intellectuals also supported the tribal agitation. The state government is trying to browbeat the intellectuals opposed to it who want a change in the state," Mamata Banerjee said.

"It`s a matter of shame. I condemn it," she said.

State Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said the administration has no issues with the intellectuals.

"But Maoists are banned. And under the centre`s Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), anybody who helps forces like the Maoists are also guilty. The law will take its own course".