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Bengal ‘s Top Editor Resignation Sparks Controversy


Immediately after his questioning for six hours in Calcutta’s Hare Street police station, Ananda Bazar Patrika’s editor Anirban Chattopadhyay has resigned.
That has sparked a huge controversy with both Governor Jagdeep Dhankar  and CPI(M) West Bengal secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra claiming that the resignation reflected threats to the freedom of press in the state.
Governor Dhankhar recently tweeted saying he had sought update from home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay  regarding summoning of Chattopadhyay at the Hare Street police station.
“Press freedom is non-negotiable. It is spine of democracy and guaranteed by Constitution”, Dhankhar stated in the tweet.
While the Governor tried to put the blame on the shoulder of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (the tweet was marked to Banerjee and the Editors Guild of India), CPI(M) state unit secretary Mishra held Modi government responsible for Chattopadhyay’s ordeal.
“Is it true that Anirban Chattopadhyay, Editor ABP, the highest circulated Bangla daily is sought to be arrested under certain fictitious but non-bailable charges? Is it dedicated to Modi’s first year 2nd term, meant to settle the score because of ABP upholding the secular values?” Mishra tweeted on Saturday.
Independent sources confirmed that a notice under various sections of the IPC was served to Chattopadhyay at his office on May 25 asking him to appear at Hare Street police station for questioning.
The notice, according to the sources, was prompted by a story on inadequate supply of PPEs to the staff of a hospital handling COVID-19 cases.
Health Department took the view that the report was factually incorrect and wrote so to Home Department. This led to a complaint filed with the Hare Street police station.
Chattopadhyay, instead of presenting himself before the police, wrote a letter to Officer-in-Charge of the police station saying he had moved the court for anticipatory bail. 
Moreover, being a senior citizen, he had been medically advised to avoid going to public places and expose himself to infection by the novel coronavirus.
This correspondent has seen Chattopadhyay’s letter to Officer-in-Charge of Hare Street police station which was accompanied by medical certificate from his doctor.
Till yesterday, Chattopadhyay’s name appeared as the editor. 
Following Chattopadhyay’s resignation, Ishani Datta Ray has become the new editor of the Bengali daily, which is also the flagship of the ABP group.
A top ABP source said that Chattopadhyay, who took over as editor four years back, has resigned not because of the police summoning but because he had huge disagreements with the ABP management  over  restructuring of the editorial staff, that had already led to extensive lay-offs.
“Summon by police may not have much to do with Chattopadhyay’s exit,” the source said.
He said that Chattopadhyay felt ‘morally responsible’ for the lay-offs because that put paid to many a bright career and also compromised the cutting-edge editorial profile of India’s most circulated Bengali daily.
A suave, erudite and soft-spoken editor , Chattopadhyay had a carefully cultivated low professional profile than many topguns in the ABP hierarchy but he was seen by many mid-career and young journalists as a role model .
Chattopadhyay has been active on his Facebook even after his resignation , but avoided raising issues leading to his decision.
The ABP has not yet come out with its version.
ABP long-timer and former BBC Bengali service producer Ishani Datta Ray has taken over as ABP’s Acting Editor.

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