The Rt. Honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal
Shri Buddhadeb Bhattacharya
The Divisional Commissioner
It has come to our notice that North Bengal’s Inspector General of Police, Kundan Lal Tamta, has been threatening a registered voluntary association, Swadhikar, with the cancellation of its registration and its well known President, Shri Vaskar Nandy, with arrest for Maoist activities.
It could well be that the IG has information that we are not privy to which shows that the Maoist label in this case is appropriate. The West Bengal government has already arrested many alleged Maoists under the all-India ban imposed by the central government. Tamta is free to add a few more numbers from his own watch. Why doesn’t he do that? That would be a good test for his allegations before the courts and within civil society.
But it is intolerable that in a situation where such crucial matters as individual liberty and the right of association are at stake the IG resorts to threats instead of the high degree of rectitude expected of a police officer of high rank. The matter becomes even more worrisome when the IG implies that this organisation has to stop anti-government activities by inciting those among the poor with grievances against the government. This is strange because in a democracy anti-government activity is always desirable if there are serious violations by Government of such constitutional and legal rights such as the Right to Food, Right to Work, Right to Life, Right to Due Process, etc. as long as such activity is not accompanied by terrorist violence or incitement to it. The IG has to mind his own business by enforcing the criminal law and laws protecting the security of the state, but he has no business acting as the gatekeeper against anti-government activities as such. If the police start to behave in this way, then a free and democratic society will cease to exist.
We, the undersigned, have known Swadhikar and Shri Nandy for many years. We are conversant with the activities of this organisation and all of us have participated in and cooperated with those activities at some time or the other. This organisation has steadfastly worked to oppose the violations of ¬human and civil rights and it is ironic that a police officer is now threatening its own civil and human rights. If the government doesn’t like such opposition, surely the political leadership can have its say, but what is not permissible is to set the police on such opposition without any evidence of criminal violations of the law.
We record our protest against Tamta’s activities with regard to this matter and urge you to reprimand him or otherwise restrain and discipline him so that democratic norms are adhered to in the future.
Signed by leading academics, lawyers and activists of North Bengal