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Posted on Nov 29, 05:04PM | IANS
Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has described West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as "intolerant and whimsical" and warned her that she would lose power if she did not change.
In a letter to her, Katju demanded she apologise to all who were victimised by her adminisration, and sought action against policemen who arrested Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and farmer Shiladitya Chowdhury. Mahapatra was arrested for circulating a cartoon of the chief minister, and Chowdhury for questioning her policies.
The former Supreme Court justice also said that former joint commissioner of police Damayanti Sen be restored to her earlier office, from which she was removed after she cracked a Park Street rape case in February.
"We all make mistakes but a gentleman is one who realises his mistake and apologises," Katju wrote.
The PCI chairman asked Banerjee to follow the example of her Maharashtra counterpart Prithviraj Chavan who suspended police officers responsible for the arrest of the Mumbai girl who posted on Facebook her objection to the shutdown of Mumbai on the death of Bal Thackeray.
"I request you to act against the policemen who ordered and implemented the arrest of Mahapatra and Chowdhury, you should immediately withdraw the cases against them and apologise to them," Katju wrote.
The former Supreme Court justice accused Banerjee of victimising Damayanti Sen, who, he said, was an upright police officer.
"You should apologise to her. You should also apologise to Tanya Bharadwaj whom you insulted on CNN-IBN show."
Bharadwaj, a young student, drew the ire of the chief minister for questioning her on a TV show.
Katju said Banerjee's ministers and bureaucrats "are afraid to speak out their minds fearlessly before you, and are terrorised by your unpredictable and whimsical behaviour".
Stating that her ways were "very unhealthy", he said Banerjee "will not be able to remain chief minister for long" unless she changed her ways and became more tolerant.
"It is still not too late if you listen to my advice and change your ways. I had praised you at one time. But of late you seem to have become increasingly intolerant and whimsical," Katju said in his letter.
Banerjee said she has not yet received any letter from Katju.
"I don't want to comment," she responded, when mediapersons asked her about the letter at the state secretariat Writers' Buildings.
Pressed further, Banerjee pointed to a particular journalist and said: "Your channel and some others criticise us every day. So what? You do whatever you like, and the government will do its work. So long I know my government is not doing anything inhuman, I am not bothered. And I know my government is very humane."
Earlier, addressing an official function, the chief minister said she was unruffled by the "negative publicity" carried out by "vested interests".
"I know some people are criticising and demeaning us. They are doing this because they have some vested interests. Let them do, we don't care. 'Raja chale bazaar to kutta bhonke hazaar' (the king walks to market, though a thousand dogs bark)," Banerjee said.
The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Congress came out in Katju's support and slammed Banerjee for her "dictatorial ways".
"She says she is king and will not mend her ways no matter how much people criticise her. Being the opposition, we are bound to oppose. But now even her partymen, leaders and wellwishers are raising their voices against her. There is nothing more to say," CPI-M heavyweight and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra said.
"The government is not only intolerant but is gradually acquiring dictatorial attributes. Why should ministers have to display her portrait in their chambers? She believes in the personality cult and when such a thing permeates a party, it starts moving in a dictatorial trajectory," Congress leader and junior railways minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.