Intellectuals not allowed to go to Nandigram (Lead)

May 10th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by admin  

Kolkata, May 10 (IANS) A team of city-based intellectuals under the banner of NGO Swajan, who Saturday afternoon set out for Nandigram in East Midnapore district to monitor Sunday’s panchayat polls, was forced by the police to return to Kolkata. “Our convoy was stopped at Uluberia near Howrah by a large police force. Uluberia Sub-Divisional Officer Sanjay Basu asked us not to go to Nandigram since they won’t be able to give us enough police protection,” Swajan member and noted film-maker Aparna Sen told IANS.

“We told him to give us the protection that they are allotting to various media groups, or else we will go to Nandigram on our responsibility. Basu refused and said that he will detain us and even apply force if we try to go there,” she added.

“We have decided to return to Kolkata instead. Because, if we are detained it will be a waste of time for us. But it’s shocking that autocracy is ruling West Bengal in the name of democracy,” Sen said.

Earlier in the day, the West Bengal Election Commission (WBEC) refused to guarantee security to the members of Swajan and advised them to back off from the Nandigram visit.

“It is not possible to guarantee the intellectuals full security at Nandigram. At this moment, our focus is to conduct fair and peaceful polls there and we can’t afford extra burden at this moment. I have already requested the intellectuals to reconsider their decision. They must not go to Nandigram during the polls,” Election Commissioner Ashok Gupta told reporters.

Swajan alleged that the WBEC’s refusal to provide security was part of a “conspiracy” to hold the intellectuals back from visiting Nandigram.

Swajan is an independent body of civil society formed by a number of eminent intellectuals including filmmaker Aparna Sen, theatre-artist Shaonli Mitra and painter Subhaprasanna.

Panchayat elections in West Bengal will be held May 11, 14 and 18 and counting will take place May 21.

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