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Shiladitya granted bail

Midnapur, Aug. 24: Shiladiya Chowdhury, the farmer who had questioned Mamata Banerjee on rising fertiliser prices at her August 8 Belpahari rally, was granted bail by the West Midnapore district sessions judge on Friday.

Judge Samar Roy granted the bail on a personal bond of Rs 1,000.

An official of Jhargram sub-divisional jail said Shiladitya was released around 6pm.

When reporters asked him if he had anything to say to the chief minister, the farmer broke down in tears and said: “Doya kore mukhyamantri samparke amake kono proshno korben na (please do not ask me anything about the chief minister).”

Asked if he stood by what he had told Mamata, Shiladitya said with folded hands: “Please don’t ask me all these questions.”

In an interview with ABP Ananda late tonight, Shiladitya said: “I am not a Maoist. I had voted for Mamatadi…. I had just put a simple question to the chief minister on the rising fertiliser prices as this is affecting farmers. I did not push anybody at the rally.”

Mamata and two of her cabinet colleagues have hinted that Shiladitya, who had also accused the chief minister of making false promises to Jungle Mahal’s poor, was a Maoist. Police have so far failed to establish any link between the farmer and the rebels.

Shiladitya was taken away from the rally venue by the police on Mamata’s orders. He was apparently released the same night but picked up again two days later.

A police officer, though, has claimed the farmer had fled during interrogation after his arrest the first time.

In court today, public prosecutor Rajkumar Das said: “Shiladitya had entered the security zone on the day of the rally and tried to hide his identity by giving a false name (he had initially been identified as Duryodhan Mahato). This shows he had a bad intention and his bail prayer should be rejected.”

Appearing on Shiladitya’s behalf, lawyer Chiranjib Bhowmik said it was “inhuman” to lodge the farmer in jail by charging him with criminal intimidation and assault on policemen “for asking a question to the chief minister”.

Bhowmik, who is also a member of the Congress’s legal cell, said the charges were not tenable. He said the police had not submitted any medical report to justify the claim that policeman had been injured.

He argued that the investigating officer’s report also did not mention any assault on policemen.

Bhowmik quoted district sessions judge Roy as saying: “This court is allowing the petitioner’s prayer for bail.”

Shiladitya’s elder brother Tilak said: “The bail has proved that my brother had done nothing wrong.”