"Maoist" students' questions anger Mamata

Last Updated: Sat, May 19, 2012 09:43 hrs

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday called a group of students Maoists and walked out of a television show in a huff when asked questions about controversial incidents during her first year of rule.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief lost her cool and stormed out of the interactive session organised by CNN-IBN news channel at the Jadavpur University when audience members questioned her on the arrest of a professor and increased rate of crimes against women.

One question referred to professor Ambikesh Mahapatra who was allegedly beaten up by TMC activists and then locked up by the police for over 17 hours with seemingly bungled charges for emailing a cartoon that took a dig at Banerjee.

"It is not a cartoon. We love the cartoon. Cartoon is a different thing. He is a CPI-M man, He misused the e-mail of his society people without their consent. He forwarded it to 60 people," Banerjee responded angrily.

" ... The message in the cartoon which contained the word ´vanish´ is a murder conspiracy and a plot supported by CPM (Communist Party of India-Marxist). What he has done is a cyber crime. It is not a cartoon, it is a political conspiracy to murder me," Banerjee.

Claiming that the professor was an "agent" of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Banerjee slammed the student for asking the questions saying, "I know that Maoist people and CPM are putting up these questions."

Questions by the students about crime against women in the state also infuriated the chief minister who argued there was "no crime" against women in the state, and accused the students of being CPI-M cadres and asking "Maoist questions".

She eventually walked out of the show midway, claiming that it could even be verified that the members of the audience were Maoists and CPI-M cadres, and they were asking nothing but "questions of the Maoists and the CPM".

Speaking to the CNN-IBN host, the girl who was accused by the Chief Minister of being a Maoist cadre, said, "I study political science, I know of it in theory. I don´t see it in practice. I mean, I am just asking her a question.

"I didn´t provoke her. I didn´t instigate her to do what she did. She put a label on me and she walked off. That´s what she´s been doing. She put a label on the rape victims even before the police had done their dues."

Criticism against Banerjee's regime has progressively grown louder since her landslide victory last year, that was seen more as a manifestation of resentment against three decades of communist rule than a vote of approval for the firebrand leader.

Over the course of a number of months, the regime has drawn ridicule and parallels to fascism from a livid intelligentsia who have have lambasted the TMC and the administration for a crackdown on citizens and groups critical of her government.

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