The Nabanna Abhijan by the SFI-DYFI combine, the student and youth wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) respectively, was an expression of the simmering anger of the youth of West Bengal. The 11 February march was a peaceful one with a huge turnout. On reaching the barricades, the police unleashed a barbaric assault with batons and lathis. Throwing caution to the winds, the police attacked the protesters and beat them black and blue.
With more than 150 injured which included broken skulls, bleeding noses and laceration wounds, one young comrade succumbed to injuries. Reports suggest that he was hit hard in the abdomen area with a force that led to the bursting of his kidney.
The Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who has a horrendous record of uttering inanities in the past, such as, on the occasion of an increase in infant mortality in the state she had said that it is because the mothers had conceived during the Left front regime, has resorted to a similar banality.
She has said that the death was due to a pre-existing kidney ailment and has offered to give money and a job to the members of the fallen comrade. Her consolations are not in any way the outpourings of a sensitive heart but predicated upon the crude logic of the upcoming elections.
Comrade Moidul Islam Middhya embraced death on Monday morning. His last words were “aami aar bachbo na—I won’t live anymore”. The poignant words show that the fallen comrade was in extreme pain and could foresee his death. Alas, unlike many other deaths of students and youth at the hands of both the Centre and the state, our comrade did not even get the time to pen poetic thoughts on existence and life, the struggles and strife, he was wiped out by a baton whose wielder surely would have sons or daughters who would be readying themselves to take on this harsh world.
(There are reports of alleged custodial torture of another activist of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, allegedly for participating in a spontaneous road blockade as activists waited to receive the body of Middhya on 17 February.)
Alas, the killer had no clue that the comrade was fighting to make things easier for the latter. The protest was not about the recovering of the lost glories of Hinduism nor about banning a book that has hurt the sentiments of the minority, but a progressive one wherein the youth have non-discriminatory access to education, secure jobs, good health, and all that our Constitution aspires to achieve. The loss is immeasurable. We have lost a soldier in our battle against capitalism and authoritarianism of all hues. But the loss is also of the killer who might or might not realise that he has killed someone who would have been on the roads for his children and their welfare, their aspirations, and their needs.
It is always painful to see a youthful flame of life dying out, even more so when it is smothered by the horrid winds of authoritarianism. But unfortunately, history has set this as a price for emancipation. The struggle for independence attests to this as not a single geriatric comes to mind who was taken to the gallows. It was always the young and the youthful who mounted them. And it was the weight of their suspended bodies that brought down the British empire.
The author is a research scholar with the Department of World History, University of Cambridge. The views are personal.