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With Poca in place, Leftist lose out on anti-Poto drive

With Poca in place, Leftist lose out on anti-Poto drive

Author: Aloke Banerjee
Publication: The Times of India
Date: December 9, 2001

Two women in their early 2081 Deepa Sarkar and Kakoli Mandi, are languishing in jail for the last five months for daring to carry a pamphlet calling upon former U.S. president Bill Clinton to 'go back'. Both the women were arrested in July this year in Midnapore. They were charged with sedition by the police. When the court did grant them bail, they were re-arrested and put back in prison.

Human rights organisations have now decided to highlight their plight. They claim that there is no ground to charge the women with sedition and that they should, if at all deemed necessary, have been detained by the police and released after Mr Clinton left the state or the country. But, ironically, the women were arrested more than four months after Mr Clinton had come and gone. That the police were able to act in such high-handed manner, raises questions about the urgency for Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) and the very real possibility of misusing Poca by them.

Absence of a law, the organisations point out, has not prevented the West Bengal government from putting nearly a 1,000 political activists in prison. All of them have been arrested under existing laws. As many as 686 of these activists are members of the Kamtapur People's Party which is demanding a separate state in north Bengal. The rest are activists of various Naxalite factions, according to reports compiled by the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Ironically, the Left Front, including the CPM, too, had condemned Mr Clinton and had raised similar slogans during the former U.S. president's visit in March last year. Both the women arrested at Salboni were Naxalites connected with the People's War Group, claim sources in the government.

The CPM, which is strongly opposed to Poto passed by the BJP-led government at the Centre, also chose to ignore the arrest of 77-year-old Bidhubhusan Mahato from Salboni around the same time. His crime was more serious: he was carrying a copy of the Communist Manifesto- the Bible of the CPM.

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