Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is fast losing friends and making foes following the attack on a Jadavpur University professor for a cartoon lampooning her.
On Saturday, however, the first signs of damage control by the West Bengal government was apparent when four Trinamool Congress workers were arrested for assaulting the professor. But the action seemed only too little too late as the four were let off immediately.
Alongside, efforts were also increased to police users of social media including Facebook and Twitter, even as the cartoon issue flared up, drawing outrage from different quarters.
Kabir Suman, a dissident Trinamool Congress leader, said, "The chief minister... she is the government... she is suffering from a strange paranoia and persecution mania."
Mohammad Salim, a CPI-M leader said, "The basic philosophy of the Trinamool Congress... there is a lack of basic democratic values and there is no tolerance from top to bottom."
Despite the government intimidation, social networking websites like Facebook remained flooded with anti-Mamata cartoons.
Intellectuals say these are attacks on the freedom that Kolkata has long enjoyed.
Sukanta Chaudhuri, Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur University, said, "When something like this happens, it is so against the grain of our life and experience here that we find it very deeply disturbing, very ominous..."
Supriya Chaudhuri, a professor at the University said, "I also think that it is frightening for the prospects that it holds out for the future."
Many feel that this apparent lack of humour and extreme intolerance towards things that are even remotely critical of the government is perhaps indicative of a bigger malaise... that of Mamata Banerjee's compulsions to defend the nuisance that her supporters are routinely indulging in.