Kolkata: Stoking controversy, the Mamata
Banerjee government in West Bengal banned English and
mass-circulation Bengali dailies at state-sponsored and aided
libraries but in a damage-control exercise late tonight said
the order was being changed to include more newspapers.
The order by the state government evoked criticism from
Trinamool ally Congress, Left parties and the intelligentsia
which said the decision was "undemocratic, undesirable and
worse than censorship." A demand for withdrawal of the
circualar was also made.
A top government source said tonight that the order by
the Department of Mass Education Extension and Library
Services was being amended incorporating an English daily,
beside an Olchiki, Nepali and a Bengali daily to the original
list of eight newspapers.
"Among the newspapers being added are leading English
daily Times of India, Bengali daily `Aajkal` besides an
Olchiki and a Nepali newspaper," the source told PTI.
"A concerted move is on to tarnish the image of the
state government by levelling the charge that the freedom of
the press is being gagged. This is a lie," the source said.
"Rumour is being spread with a malafide intention by
some motivated people," the source said.
"The Library Department is a small department, it has
little funds and cannot keep so many newspapers," the source
The state government earlier defended its decision
saying it had been issued in accordance with its policy and
ruled out withdrawing the circular.
"The circular is okay ..The circular has been issued
in accordance with government policy," said state`s Libraries
Affairs minister Abdul Karim Chowdhury after a 45-minute
meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier in the
According to the earlier order, purchase of
newspapers/dailies by public libraries shall be restricted
to Sangbad Pratidin, Sakalbela, Khabar 365 din, Ekdin,
Dainik Statesman (all Bengali), Sanmarg (Hindi) and
Akhbar-E-Mashriq and Azad Hind (both Urdu dailies).
Three journalists of Sangbad Pratidin, Sanmarg and
Akhbar-e-Mashriq were recently elected to Rajya Sabha on
Trinamool Congress tickets.
The circular also said no government fund will be
spent for purchase of any newspaper or daily published or
purported to be published by any political party in any public
library in the state.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the order is "worse
than censorship" and has shades of "fascism".