Scientists seek PM's intervention over W Bengal arrests

Scientists seek PM's intervention over W Bengal arrests

Scientists seek PM's intervention over W Bengal arrests

Accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of high-handedness, a group of scientists today condemned the arrest of a professor and a molecular biologist in West Bengal and sought Prime Minister's immediate intervention on the issue.

In a signed letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the scientists from across the country and some from abroad voiced serious concern over the "crackdown on human rights activists and citizens who are attempting to raise issues of concern".

The arrests of Jadavpur chemistry professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and Partho Sarothi Ray, a molecular biologist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohanpur, has kicked up a storm in the state with the opposition targeting the state government.

Mahapatra drew Banerjee's ire when he posted a cartoon on the internet depicting her in poor light while Ray had opposed the eviction of slum dwellers in Kolkata. In Kolkata, the ruling Trinamool Congress sought to cool tempers, saying there was no move to set up any mechanism to monitor social media.

"Let me categorically state that the Trinmool Congress never had nor does it intend to have any cell to monitor social media," Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien told PTI.

On reports that the party has established cells to monitor social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, O'Brien, the party's cyber team head, said, "these rumours are being spread by those with other agendas. The freedom of the press is non-negotiable".

In their letter, the scientists said,"There also seems to be a clear message to others not to raise voices of dissent. This has implications for not only this series of events in Kolkata but also for democracy," said the letter signed by activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Massachussetts Institute of Technology professors Noam Chomsky, Mrigangka Sur, Abha Sur, scientists of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, IITs among others.

Ray is an established researcher in the field of molecular biology whose findings have been published in world class journals, the letter said. In Patna, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad termed the arrest of Mohapatra as an assault on the freedom of expression.

"People make my cartoons to which I have never objected. It is an assault on the freedom of expression," the former Bihar chief minister told reporters here. "I strongly condemn it. Something very bad has taken place in West Bengal," he said.