Bengal's 'totalitarian regime' didn't want me to continue: A.K. Ganguly
Justice (retd) A.K. Ganguly Wednesday said the situation in West Bengal was akin to that of a "totalitarian regime where no dissent is allowed", and accused the state and central governments of "one-sided efforts" in seeking his dismissal as chief of the state human rights panel.
Two days after he quit as West Bengal Human Rights Commission chairperson -- bowing to mounting pressure following allegations of sexual harassment from a law intern, the former Supreme Court judge said the Mamata Banerjee regime did not like his continuance in the post.
He also criticised the Supreme Court for dealing with him "very unfairly" in setting up a three-member probe committee.
"The West Bengal government did not like my continuance in the post. What's going on in Bengal is virtually a totalitarian regime where no dissent is allowed," he said.
After the intern's allegations became public, Banerjee wrote twice to President Pranab Mukherjee for taking urgent necessary action, so as to remove Ganguly from the post.
Meanwhile, the union cabinet cleared the home ministry's proposal for a presidential reference to the Supreme Court for a probe into the allegations.
"It's a totally one-sided effort by both the state and central government to seek my ouster which I did not find at all encouraging. They went to the extent of sending it to the president for a reference to the Supreme Court. Already the SC has dealt with me very unfairly in the initial setting up of the probe committee," Ganguly said.
He said he had taken up the responsibility to head the state human rights panel in April 2012, following Banerjee's request, but he never showed any personal allegiance to her.
"Earlier, the honourable chief minister used to call me Asokda (elder brother Asok). But I don't know what she calls me now. What I have done as panel chief is all recorded. I did not show any personal allegiance to anybody. I only stuck to my commitment to some values.
"Human rights are violated with the aid of the state machinery. I wanted to help people whose rights have been violated. I thought it is my duty. I wanted to take the HRC to a level where it could earn the confidence of the people," Ganguly said.
He said that during his tenure as the WBHRC head, the number of complaints lodged doubled due to the confidence people had in the commission's working.
"We've been able to earn the people's trust. The number of complaints from 5,000 has risen to 12,000-14,000 complaints now, which is likely to grow. But while doing this, I could feel the state government did not like this," he said.
As chairperson, Ganguly had asked the state government to pay compensation to Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and his neighbour who were arrested for circulating emails mocking Banerjee.
The WBHRC also directed the government to pay compensation to a farmer who was dubbed by the chief minister as a Maoist and arrested after the farmer asked her about the rising price of fertiliser at a public rally.
"I still remember when the commission made the recommendation on Ambikesh, the very next day, the chief minister without naming me, blasted me in the state assembly," Ganguly said.
"She (Banerjee) had said, 'I brought in a good impartial man, but the way he is functioning it seems he has no knowledge about laws and jurisdiction'. But I have never shown any disrespect towards her."
"Then the Shiladitya episode. We took it as human rights violation and made the recommendation which was again not taken in the right spirit. Similar were the feelings regarding recommendations in the Presidency University case and that of the Sudipta Gupta (student activist who died in police custody)."
On whether he was surprised at having to quit without a police complaint registered against him, Ganguly said it should surprise all those who campaigned against him, including a section of the media.
"It's a surprise for you, everybody, who is carrying a campaign against me. All of you who are carrying on a campaign against me. The person against whom an FIR hasn't been lodged had to step down," he said.
He said there was a campaign against him possibly because he passed some orders.
"I can't say anything definitely on the conspiracy," he said.
Ganguly said it was being said that women's rights could not be protected with him in the WBHRC chair because of the allegation against him.
"Nothing can be farthest from truth. Ask the women's bodies that are functioning in Bengal," he said.
Ganguly expressed disappointment over the developments, but said people should not lose hope in the rule of law in the country. "I hope mine is a single case."
(Posted on 08-01-2014)