Kolkata: A West Bengal court Monday rejected the bail plea of a man, who was arrested after he had publicly questioned Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee about her government policies towards farmers.

"The court of assistant chief judicial magistrate (Jhargram) Monday rejected Shiladitya Chowdhury's bail plea. He is now in judicial custody," his counsel Ashwini Mandal said. Chowdhury, a marginal farmer, was arrested Saturday from Jhargram in West Midnapore district for "disrupting a public rally and assaulting police officers".

He was later remanded to 14 days' judicial custody.He has been charged under several non-bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code, one of which carries an imprisonment term of 10 years.

While Banerjee was addressing a public rally July 8 in Belpahari a Maoist stronghold about 170km from Kolkata, Chowdhury stood up and asked her: "Farmers are dying because they have no money.

Empty promises are not enough. What are you doing for farmers? "Stunned by the question, an angry Banerjee immediately branded him a "Maoist" following which Chowdhury was detained and taken for interrogation by the police.

"I have information Maoists have sent agents to create disturbance at this meeting. Catch him. Do not let him create trouble," Banerjee had said. Chowdhury was, however, allowed to go that day but was arrested Saturday morning.

The arrest evoked a strong reaction from all quarters, including Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju, who denounced Banerjee as "totally dictatorial, intolerant, and whimsical". He termed the action as a "blatant misuse" of state machinery and "flagrant violation" of constitutional and human rights.

(Agencies)

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