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LAW LESS

Topsy-turvy land in fantasy may be a delightful place; transported into reality it is sinister. It is a place where the police act on mysterious orders from elusive authorities, detaining citizens with no complaint against them from any injured party, while the police themselves make up some — presumably on their own. This is what happened to Suman Mukhopadhyay, a well-known film-maker and theatre person from West Bengal, who was held overnight in a police station in Calcutta for questioning. Mr Mukhopadhyay had spent an evening in a hotel with a friend who had subsequently been admitted to hospital with an injury. The hospital had to report the injury to the police, and they were on to the ‘case’ like a shot. Unfortunately, Mr Mukhopadhyay’s friend did not complain against him. But that was no deterrent, for it being topsy-turvy land, the police manufactured the complaints. So a series of charges, two of them non-bailable, were thought up on the basis of a complaint from an “institution”. Since the hotel was the only institution in view, its spokespersons stated that the hotel authorities had lodged no complaint. The police, undaunted, got Mr Mukhopadhyay over for questioning, and kept him till the next day with an arrest apparently in the offing. They reportedly wanted to know how his friend had hurt herself, although the charges against him were things like criminal breach of trust and cheating. He was apparently being accused of breaking a glass table and not paying for it. Logic has no place here, although the naïve may still ask why one person’s injury should lead to another person being accused of not paying for a broken table. But this could not lead to an arrest even in topsy-turvy land, although the police have got away with extreme harassment.

Behind the crassly coercive lies the truly sinister. As an engaged cultural personality, Mr Mukhopadhyay’s politics are not divorced from his art or public pronouncements. It may not be a coincidence that he has been less than enthusiastic about the Trinamul Congress regime in West Bengal. The state was acquainted, under the previous regime, with the way in which political opinions or disagreements led to incarceration for mythical transgressions. Mr Mukhopadhyay’s ordeal shows that the change of regime in West Bengal has altered neither the political subservience of the police in the state nor the perpetration of injustices and blatant violations of rights and procedure.