Kolkata, Oct 5 (IANS) Expressing concern over the violence-marred local body polls and assault on journalists, a section of the civil society on Monday gave a call to build a mass movement to safeguard democratic rights of people in West Bengal.
Slamming the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government for defaming democracy, civil society members including actor Soumitra Chatterjee, actor-director Aparna Sen and thespian Rudraprasad Sengupta came out with a statement dubbing the October 3 violence-hit polls in Asansol and Bidhannagar as a “blemish on democracy”.
“The picture surrounding the October 3 civic polls has instilled a sense of fear in us. With the aid of the administration, democracy in the state is being constantly attacked,” said the statement read out to the media by actor Koushik Sen.
“Common people couldn’t exercise their democratic right and were subjected to various hardships even in front of police. Journalists while trying to gather news had to face physical and verbal assaults.
“We are deeply concerned at the lack of neutrality of the administration and security of the common people. We strongly oppose the attempts to turn the electoral process violent which has infringed and blemished democracy,” it added.
Others lending voice to the condemnation included the likes of Sahitya Akademi awardee poet Sankha Ghosh, actor Abir Chatterjee, director Srijit Mukherjee and former state election commissioner Mira Pande.
Aparna Sen, along with former Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly, activist Bolan Ganguly and academician Miratun Nahar said it was the duty of the civil society to fight for preserving the democratic rights of the people. They called upon the masses to hit the streets.
“Undermining democratic principles, they want to stay in power at any cost. Whoever tries to oppose that has to fall prey to their strong-arm tactics. Even the police and administration don’t come to the rescue,” said A.K. Ganguly, a former chief of the state human rights panel.
“Each and every person should now come ahead and save the society, save our next generation,” he added.
While three people have been arrested for the assault on the journalists, A.K. Ganguly and the others dubbed the action an “eyewash”.
With Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee maintaining a deafening silence on the matter, Koushik Sen said it was not surprising.
“Silence from the chief minister is expected. An extreme sense of despair prevails surrounding the social and economic condition of the state. She cannot provide jobs, even if she wants to she cannot get rid of the illegal syndicates,” he said.
Even as he admitted the onus was on the civil society to stand up against the growing attacks on democracy, Koushik Sen conceded mass movements similar to that of the 2007 Nandigram movement when civil society stood up against the erstwhile Left Front government was not possible.
“During the Nandigram movement, people across the society had lent their voices but that happening at this moment is impossible. The reason for that is there is no neutral space, a large section of those who can influence are under the patronage of the Trinamool or there are some others who are now wondering if siding by the Left Front would have been better,” he said.
“We as civil society members do not and will not canvass for any political party. What we can do is to ensure that the common people can exercise their right to vote freely and fairly,” he added.
Meanwhile, media persons under the aegis of the Kolkata Press Club during the day took out a rally in the city condemning the attack on journalists.
Over 200 reporters, photographers and video journalists participated in the condemnation march.