Last Friday, July 2, marked the third death anniversary of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activist Abhimanyu, a student of Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, who was brutally murdered in an attack by members of the Islamist fundamentalist outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) and its students wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI).
Abhimanyu hailed from an Adivasi community in the remote village of Vattavada in Idukki district. He was the youngest of three children of Tamil peasants named Manoharan and Bhoopathi, who lived in a one-room house. He had joined Maharaja’s College to pursue a BSc Chemistry degree in 2017 and was a member of Idukki District Committee of SFI. A popular figure on campus, he was also actively involved with the National Services Scheme (NSS) unit of the college. He had returned to campus on July 1, 2018 and was getting ready to welcome the new batch of freshers the next day, when the new academic year was set to begin.
Upon hearing late that night that CFI members had pasted posters on the wall that SFI had booked on campus to write messages welcoming freshers to the campus, Abhimanyu and his comrades went to the spot and removed the posters; they wrote “Vargeeyatha Thulayatte” (Death to Communalism) on the same wall. The response of the gang of PFI/CFI members was to attack him and his friends. Two other SFI activists named Arjun and Vineeth were injured, with the former spending many days in intensive care following the attack. Abhimanyu, who was held back by one member of the gang while another stabbed him on the chest, died before his friends could take him to a hospital. Nearly two years after the murder, the key accused surrendered in court.
Commemoration of Abhimanyu’s Martyrdom
Abhimanyu's martyrdom was commemorated by the students of his college in Ernakulam in the wee hours of July 2 in a short function that adhered to the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. His comrades chose to remember him by lighting a torch against communalism and placing candles next to a picture of him as slogans were raised: 'A martyr doesn't die! You will live through us; through the blood that flows in us.' Other similar events were held throughout the state during the day, with pledges to fight communalism and to work towards ensuring education to students from marginalised communities.
A two-storey memorial for Abhimanyu was inaugurated late last year in Kaloor, Ernakulam by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan; a library in Vattavada now has a collection of nearly 50,000 books which stand testimony to the fact that his comrades have followed his words.
“The memorial building has a lodging facility for 30 students from SC/ST communities and will provide classroom facilities that will enable them to attend short-term programmes and online courses offered by universities in the country and abroad. Reputed academicians and former SFI members will also mentor the students,” said Amal Sohan, secretary of the Ernakulam district committee of SFI. However, the functioning of training facility has been delayed due to the pandemic.
The library in Vattavada is the first public lending library in the area and was one of the long-cherished dreams that Abhimanyu had. The collection of books, in English, Malayalam and Tamil was donated by individuals and organisations from India and abroad. The library also has a hall and an office room and opens daily.
The SFI has also started a campaign to provide digital equipment to students for educational use. At an event held later in the day in the memorial building in Ernakulam, these were handed over to the Regional Tribal Extension Officer R. Anoop to be distributed to 300 Adivasi students. The ongoing campaign is being undertaken by the students across the state with the slogan ‘We can arrange. Let them study'.
Fight Against Communalism
CPI(M) Politburo member M.A. Baby made a moving tribute to Abhimanyu on Facebook and spoke of the need to reject all forms of communal politics. Over the last couple of years, the SFI has been actively involved in resisting communal politics. Student and youth organizations played a major part in ensuring unity among people in the state in opposing the CAA/NRC/NPR. The rejection of communal politics was evident in the elections to the state assembly earlier this year, with the BJP’s vote share declining and the moves made by the Congress to associate themselves with both Muslim and Hindu communal outfits backfiring.
A year ago, Simon Britto, another SFI activist who had to undergo a brutal attack (but survived), published a memoir which also recounted the events leading up to Abhimanyu’s death. Earlier this year, a 16-year-old SFI activist, also named Abhimanyu, was allegedly murdered by a group of RSS workers. The fight against communalism goes on.