KOLKATA: Bailed out on Sunday after two days in police custody, Congress spokesman Sanmoy Bandopadhyay alleged that he was subjected to "inhuman torture" and was not allowed to drink a drop of water for 14 hours, claiming that everything was done on the instruction of "pishi" (aunt) and "bhaipo" (nephew) as he had been speaking out against the rule of the "jungle" they had established.
Though Bandopadhyay did not name anybody, it was apparent that he was referring to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, a Trinamool MP and youth leader, whom many consider as Banerjee's heir apparent.
"I had to witness such things on the soil of Bengal. I bow my head in shame while narrating this... It was done under the instructions of the 'aunt' and the 'nephew'," he said.
Bandopadhyay was taken away by police personnel from his Agarpara residence in North 24 Parganas district on Thursday, was allegedly tortured in Khardah police station and taken to Purulia on various charges, including forgery, defamation and intent to provoke breach of the peace, after he criticised the two Banerjees and the ruling Trninamool Congress through video posts on the social media.
"From 7:30 p.m. to 4:40 a.m. I was subjected to inhuman torture... The upper part of my body was without clothes and I was only in my pyjamas. I was dragged. They rained 40-50 blows on me," said the journalist-turned-politician, who since June had been posting daily videos on his YouTube channel 'Banglar Barta', sharply critical of the government, senior bureaucrats and police officers.
A seemingly traumatised Bandopadhyay broke down while narrating his ordeal. According to the Congress leader, after he fell to the ground, he was hit on the lower part of the body.
"I asked for water so many times, I could see they were all drinking water. But I was not given a single drop to drink for 14 hours. I was made to sit on a stool in the police station. At 4.50 a.m. they took me outdoor, put me in a vehicle, but did not answer my repeated questions as to where they were taking me," he said.
Bandopadhyay said that he wanted justice.
"If I have written anything unjust, there can be a defamation case against me. But what is this? I am indebted to Nepal da (Congress MLA Nepal Mahato). Had he and other party leaders not been there, I wouldn't have survived. There were times when I felt I will die.
"My back is still paining a lot. What I want to say is why shouldn't people be allowed to speak? If I have said anything wrong, they can move the court. I will accept the court order in all humility.
"But I was tortured. My elder brother, sister... Nobody was told about my whereabouts. I was hidden in a dark room. Why didn't they give me water," Bandopadhyay asked.
The Congress leader said that he got a new lease of life on reaching Purulia.
"But I don't know how long I will survive. No other person should suffer the kind of torture I had to undergo, just because I spoke of the rule of the jungle established by the 'aunt' and the 'nephew'.
"But why should they use the police to torture me? The way they used the Khardah police station and the Barrackpore commissionerate beggars description. I don't know whether such things happened even in the regime of (Adolf) Hitler or (Benito) Mussolini," he said.
Opposition parties in the state have rallied around Bandopadhyay.
The Congress workers hit the streets on Friday when they demonstrated at the Khardah police station. On Saturday, Congress workers put up road blocks in central Kolkata's Moulali area. The party also organiseded a statewide one-hour road blockade, starting 11 a.m. on Sunday.
The CPI-M cadres had also joined the Congress demonstration at the Khardah police station.
On Saturday, BJP leaders J.P. Mahumdar and Agnmitra Pal called on Bandopadhyay's wife and promised all help.