TMC, CPM wage political battles over SFI activist's death
The ruling Trinamool Congress is in a tight spot, just when the Panchayat poll bugle in the state is expected to sound.
Kolkata: The death of a 23-year-old activist of the leftwing Students Federation of India (SFI) during a police crackdown on students' protest in Kolkata on April 2, 2013, has left the city and the country shell-shocked. Sudipto Gupta, an MA student at Rabindra Bharati University, was admitted to hospital with severe internal haemorrhage and later succumbed to his injuries. Gupta was part of a protest organised by the SFI against the postponement of college elections. The incident has led to thousands coming out on the streets of Kolkata to protest against the incident.
According to sources, the activist was beaten up by policemen while he was being taken to the Presidency jail in a bus. Eyewitnesses told CNN-IBN that the police forced protesters on to a bus following a mass arrest and then Sudipto was pushed out of the bus and badly beaten up. SFI General Secretary Satarup Ghosh, an eyewitness himself, said, "He was hit on his head so hard that one of his eyes came out."
"We were courting arrest when the policemen started beating us in the bus. One of the policemen hit Sudipto's head with a lathi and he fell down. When we demanded immediate medical help for him, the police refused," Ghosh said.
A cornered police force maintains that Sudipto fell off the bus. "There was a scuffle inside the bus as the students shouted slogans. One of the students hit a lamp post and was critically injured," Javed Shamim, Joint Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, said.
Meanwhile, the post-mortem report said that Sudipto suffered injuries to his forehead, the back of his head and had a broken jaw.
Following the post-mortem, his body was taken to his residence where grieving relatives, friends and neighbours had gathered. and then to the SFI headquarters. At the time of filing this report, Gupta's body was on its way to the crematorium in a huge procession. Former West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is also among the thousands walking along Gupta's hearse.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the state home minister, on Wednesday morning termed the episode as "unfortunate", but evaded a question on whether a judicial probe would be ordered as demanded by the Opposition CPI(M). "Any death is unfortunate. This is also unfortunate. I will not say anything more than this," Mamata told reporters outside the state-run SSKM hospital where SFI leader Sudipto Gupta's body was kept in the morning.
However, her visit did not cut much ice with the SFI activists gathered there who raised slogans against her. Mamata also did not do much good herself when she spoke about how many of her own party workers had died the same way.
The chief minister also said she visited the hospital to express her sympathy and assured all help to the bereaved family. She also visited other activists injured in the police crackdown at the hospital.
Gupta's father Pranab Gupta, however, refused to accept any help from the state government. "My son was beaten to death. Is it justice? I was a central government employee. I get pension. I cannot accept any money. It is against my principle. She is offering me money, but can she return my son?" he said.
Asked about Mamata's reiteration of the police version that Sudipto died after he hit a post, Pranab Gupta reiterated that his son was beaten to death and he would fight for justice.
"I want them to be punished. How could they torture a 23-year-old boy like this," Pranab gupta told CNN-IBN.
An FIR has been lodged. The Left Front has asked for a judicial probe and threatened to hit the streets in protest. One person has been arrested in connection with the death of the student. The person arrested is Raju Das, the driver of the bus which was used to take the demonstrators to the prison by the police.
Sudipto Gupta's sister has gone a step ahead and demanded a CBI inquiry. "I would request the Chief Minister, who is also our Didi, to provide us justice. A proper investigation should be done for this heinous murder. I demand a CBI inquiry. How did he fall from the bus? This needs to be investigated. From what I have heard, the police assaulted him brutally even though he was injured. I demand justice from didi. I also need co-operation from my brother's party on how to get take the case forward. I would need help from the media too. They shouldn't stop reporting on this murder until we get justice," was her impassioned response to CNN-IBN.
What spurred the Kolkata Police to resort to this alleged brutality that cost a 23-year-old his life is something that has handed the Left Front with much-needed political capital. The ruling Trinamool Congress is in a tight spot, just when the Panchayat poll bugle in the state is expected to sound.