Challenging Cowardice : Our flags shall continue to rise...

2nd April, 2015, two years after we lost our comrade in arms Sudipto Gupta, the Student’s Federation of India and three other Left Students’ Organisations came out on the streets one more time. This time around too our demands are not very different, we demand action against the continued violence against women in the state, an official enquiry into Com.Sudipto Gupta’s death in police custody two years back and the call for free and fair Students’ Union Elections in the State. 

Our proceedings included a march from College Street to Dharmatala and we had planned a civil disobedience program. Kolkata Police had been informed of our proceedings and all necessary permissions had been sought. As our rally, shouting slogans entered Dharmatala, you could feel the atmosphere tense up. Numerous officers were on duty, arranged in ranks; you could judge that they were ready to take action in war-footing in case any unpleasantness arised. 

We proceeded onto Rani Rashmoni Road. This is where the barricades set up by the police began. Our procession forged ahead, bringing down two sets of barricades and then our comrades were involved in a direct clash with the police authorities. With the afternoon sun, beating down upon us, neither side was giving up. At this point, a few of our women comrades began fainting. As some of us, rushed to their aid, behind us we learnt that the police forces had surrounded us and within a few minutes what had been an otherwise peaceful procession, was ‘lathi-charged’ by the Police. 

The events that followed, served as déjà-vu for most of the students present there, of a similar afternoon, two years back. Our student activists started falling, injured – some with their head cracked open and others with painful blows from the Police Lathis. The toll of injured activists was to reach 61, with 10 of them being grievously injured. The hurt students were rushed to the Emergency Room at the Medical College. At the ER, as the injured kept pouring in, the SFI Unit of Medical College diligently treated them and also dealt with the allied chaos with equal proficiency. 

Since, the events of that day have played out, there have been obvious comparisons with the same day two years back, the day we lost Sudipto Gupta. Sudipto Gupta’s death had caught the imagination of the students’ movement at large, two years back and protests had followed from the students’ community all over the country, from Bangalore to New Delhi. Sudipto Gupta is an important martyr with respect to our Left Students’ Movement. This is because he is was an embodiment of the very basic principle on which our movement is built. 

Every year students enrol in colleges, their main purpose is gathering an education so that, eventually they can land themselves a job and associated with that, is of course earning a social standing and other associated perks. Educational institutes could be called breeding grounds for training ‘race horses’ to win at life, the free-spirited teens that enter would leave with blinkers and reins.

 As this newly-adult, 18 year old enters college, they most often carry with them a sense of liberation and are very smitten by all the activities and experiences college life has to offer. Associating with Students’ Politics is a major part of college life too. The active participation of Students in politics and the acknowledgement of their role came in the 1960’s with various events the world over which caught the imagination of the Students at large. Now, how does a student end up choosing the political line they wish to follow? The student community is a homogenous playing field. The class divide is not a prominent entity. But, every student belongs to a certain class and has been brought up a certain way and automatically, this belonging to a certain class, outside of their college realm, is a deciding factor in them choosing their politics, and whether they wish to be associated with or against the establishment. 

Now, why Sudipto Gupta chose to be a part of the Left Students’ Movement and ended up being a martyr for our cause or why did the hundreds of students walk hand-in-hand on 2nd April, 2015 and were victim to the Police Lathi but still, were out on the streets again protesting the next day? The answer to these question lies in the fact that, these students realise that, student life is not just acquiring an education so that, one day in the future they can sit in an air-conditioned office and shout orders. Rather it is to reach the understanding that, the rise in diesel and petrol prices or when the hearth at home remains unlit or their father sitting at home because his factory shut down are all barriers to their going to college and that, if they must continue to go to college, they need to raise their voices too and ask the right questions. 

Two years back Sudipto and the others had come out onto the streets to demanding campus democracy, two years later we were out on the streets again making the same demands and asking the same questions. The difference being, this time we had to do justice to the sacrifices of martyrs like Sudipto Gupta and Saifuddin Mollah. The horror of 2nd April, 2013 is still fresh in the minds of those present but, that has not made our slogans quiver or lessened our numbers if anything, every blow from the ruler makes us more resilient. It would serve well for those in power to realise that, we are not afraid of shedding blood or broken bones; we will continue to raise our voices inspite of the night of your oppression. Long Live the Democratic Students’ Movement! 

4th April, 2015