Scientist says people in WB living in dark days



Kolkata: Molecular biologist Partha Sarathi Roy, arrested during an anti-eviction movement earlier this month and released on bail on Wednesday said that people in West Bengal were 'living in dark days'.

"Incidents like my arrest and that of Jadavpore University professor Ambikesh Mohapatra in a cartoon case and the eviction of people at Nonadanga, show that we are living in dark days in West Bengal," Roy told a press conference at the Kolkata Press Club.

"These signs are ominous. I am concerned with democracy in Bengal," he said.

Stating that he was falsely implicated, Roy said said he was arrested from Nonadanga on April eight from near a hospital and taken to the police headquarters at Lalbazar along with 68 others.

He claimed that he was charged with being at Nonadanga on April four when hundreds of slum-dwellers were evicted by the police though he was 70 km away on the day attending a faculty meeting of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Kalyani in Nadia district where he is an assistant professor.

Stating that he was present on April 8 at a rally in Nonadanga from where he was picked up, he expressed sympathy for the slum dwellers. "I felt it was my duty to go to Nonadanga. I will always be with the oppressed. What I teach my students, I practice."

"I have sympathy for them and will join such a demonstration given an opportunity" He said.

To a question, the scientist said he had not been invited by anybody to join the demonstration at Nonadanga.

To another question, Roy denied having any connection with Maoists saying, "this is news to me."

Roy claimed that after being in custody for ten days, he was released only because of pressure from intellectuals from the country and abroad.

"The prosecution did not oppose my bail prayer yesterday because of pressure from intellectuals from the country and abroad. I hope the six others who are still in jail in the same case also get bail."

Questioned whether such activities would not hamper his classes and the careers of his students, he said "I take care of my students and ensure they are not affected."

Asked whether the state machinery was being used for vested interests, he said "apparently. I am very worried about the status of democracy in West Bengal."

The professor claimed that the fundamental right of freedom of expression had been violated by his arrest and others who protested the eviction.

Asked what according to him should be the role of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said "she should really take care of democratic freedom and should encourage democratic expression."

Stating that he had come to India from the US in 2008 to join IISER to dedicate himself to the state's advancement, the scientist said he was treated well in prison.

"Everyone was very courteous and cooperative," he said.

Roy was arrested along with 68 others including the pro-Maoist Matangini Mahila Samiti Secretary Debolina Chakraborty. Roy and Chakraborty were remanded to judicial custody.

The scientist was granted bail by the Alipore court yesterday.

Nobel laureate Noam Chomsky had been among those who had demanded Roy's release.

PTI