Kolkata, April 18, 2012, PTI
Democracy is in peril in West Bengal, Partha Sarothi Ray alleged within hours of walking free from jail on Wednesday, after a number of intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his release. Ray was arrested on April 8 for participating in a sit-in demonstration
protesting the eviction of about 200 families from Nonadanga by the Mamata Banerjeeadministration. He was granted bail on Wednesday, after the public prosecutor did not oppose his bail plea.

“I’ve always considered standing beside the poor and the marginalised, and on the side of justice, as a duty and responsibility. I’ve done that constantly over the past four years. If it is a crime in West Bengal, then I can only say we are living in dark days for the state,” Ray said at Kolkata Press Club.

Ray’s outburst comes against the backdrop of a section of intellectuals, who campaigned for change before the 2011 assembly elections, criticising and demonstrating against the government’s intolerance on issues such as the arrest of Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra for e-mailing a spoof on the chief minister and former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi.

A visibly agitated Ray said on Wednesday he would go back to Nonadanga (off E M Bypass) and join the anti-eviction movement as soon as possible. “No one invited me to join the movement. I went there on my own, and I would keep going to show solidarity,” he said.

On Wednesday, Ray joined the rising chorus against the government’s alleged intolerance to dissent, right of expression and democratic struggles.

“I, too, played a small role in bringing in the so-called change. But now intellectuals who want to speak their mind are being targeted. I’ve been arrested on an absolutely false charge, brought just to harass me and destroy the legitimate struggle of Nonadanga,” Ray said, adding, “We never meant for such a change!”

Though Ray was arrested for participating in a rally near Nonadanga on April 8, the scientist claimed records show that he was at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research campus at Kalyani, about 70 kilometer from Kolkata, on that day.

Ray said that he hopes his release would “pave the path for the release of the six co-accused persons who have not been granted bail and are implicated in other false charges.”

On April 8, Ray was arrested along with other 68 people. Later, 62 of those were released while Ray and six others – including current and former students of Jadavpur University Debolina Chakraborty, Debjani Ghosh and Avijnan Sarkar – were booked under several sections of the IPC and CrPC.

On Wednesday, while the government lawyer did not oppose the bail plea of Ray, pleas for the six others were opposed.

“I feel like being the lucky one as many prominent personalities spoke for my release. But the purpose would be served only when those six activists are released and Nonadanga’s evicted persons get rehabilitation,” Ray said in the media conference.