Compensate farmer branded Maoist by Mamata: Bengal rights panel

Kolkata, July 15 (IANS) The West Bengal Human Rights Commission Monday recommended Rs. 2 lakh compensation for a farmer who had been branded Maoist by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after he dared to ask her publicly about the government's policies towards peasants.

Observing that Banerjee's depiction of farmer Shiladitya Chowdury as a Maoist was tantamount to "serious adverse social and psychological effects", the panel awarded the compensation for the "loss of dignity and social status" of the marginal farmer.

While addressing a rally in the Maoist-affected Belpahari area in West Midnapore district, Banerjee last year had branded Chowdhury a "Maoist" and had him arrested after he quizzed her on her government's policies towards farmers.

"The CM's accusations of Shiladitya as a Maoist are very serious. This certainly affected the dignity of Shiladitya who is not a Maoist. It isolated him from the rest of the community and has serious adverse social and psychological effects on him," the commission said in its order.

"And it has been proved that he is not a Maoist. Shiladitya must be compensated with Rs.2 lakh for the loss of his dignity and social status. It cannot be that just because Shiladitya is a poor farmer, his dignity and status can be trifled with by slapping wild allegation on him of being a terrorist," said the order.

The Commission has given eight weeks time for the state government to comply with its recommendation as well as submit an action taken report on the basis of the recommendations.

The Commission also had words of caution for the chief minister.

"....it is no doubt true that she is a democratically elected popular leader. Even such a democratically popular leader has to abide by the Constitutional norms. In that context violation of human rights of any citizen of this state is a matter of serious concern," it said.

Reacting to the development, Chowdhury however, said he would be happier if the legal case slapped on him after his arrest was lifted by the state government.

"If it (government) withdraws (the case) it will be good. Does she (Banerjeee) know what I am going through after she branded me a Maoist? At every hearing I have to go the court and sit for hours. I cannot take this anymore I want this hardship to end," said Chowdhury.

The commission earlier had recommended paying compensation of Rs. 50,000 each to Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbour who were earlier arrested for circulating emails mocking Banerjee.

The Banerjee regime though had refused to comply with the recommendations arguing that there was no violation of human rights in the case.

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