New Delhi, 17 April 2012. Leading scientists and social activists from India and top institutions overseas have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemning the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s “high-handed arrests” of a university professor and a molecular biologist, and seeking his intervention.
The signatories include Noam Chomsky, Mrigangka Sur and Abha Sur of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, top scientists from IITs and institutions in Denmark, Singapore and Sweden, as well as activists like Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey.
Their outrage was sparked by Jadavpur University chemistry professor Ambikesh Mahapatra being taken into custody for having circulated an anti-Mamata cartoon on the Internet, followed by the arrest of Partho Sarothi Ray, a molecular biologist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, for protesting against the eviction of east Kolkata slumdwellers.
Prof. Ray is an established researcher whose findings have been published in international journals.
The letter said both were held on “false charges”, and urged the PM to ensure these were dropped: “There also seems to be a clear message to others not to raise voices of dissent. This has implications… for democracy.”
In Patna, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav condemned Prof. Mahapatra’s arrest, calling it an “assault on the freedom of expression”. He said: “People (drew) my cartoons, (but) I have never objected… Something very bad has taken place in West Bengal.”