Kolkata, April 3 (IANS) Thousands of Leftists Wednesday joined the funeral procession of an SFI activist, whose death in police custody here triggered outrage cutting across the political divide.
Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was on the defensive as she called the Tuesday death of Sudipto Gupta “unfortunate” and pledged to help his distraught family.
The West Bengal Human Rights Commission ordered a probe into his death, for which celebrated filmmaker Mrinal Sen blamed Banerjee.
Gupta, 24, a post-graduate student of Rabindra Bharati University and a leader of the Students Federation of India, died allegedly after policemen assaulted him in custody.
The SFI is the student wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
Left activists said Gupta was “mercilessly beaten” while he and other students who had staged a protest seeking elections in colleges were being taken in a bus to the Presidency Correctional Home.
In the process, Gupta reportedly fell from the bus and collapsed after crashing against a lamp post, said an SFI member.
“He was hit on his head so hard that one of his eyes popped out,” added West Bengal SFI joint secretary Shatarup Ghosh.
Police said the death was an accident.
Chief Minister Banerjee said many activists of her Trinamool Congress party too had died when their heads accidentally hit electric posts while travelling on trains.
“Any death is unfortunate. I shall not speak any more on this,” she said.
Gupta’s body, wrapped in the CPI-M’s red flag, was taken in a flower-bedecked hearse from the hospital to the Netaji Nagar College where he was general secretary of the students’ council.
Grieving students and teachers offered floral tributes amid cries of “Lal Salam!”
The body was then taken to Gupta’s residence where his father broke down.
The inconsolable 63-year-old Pranab Gupta, a widower, said his son “used to dream of a new social order, a new dawn”.
He said he would not let the death go in vain and fight for justice.
Helped by CPI-M and SFI leaders, the grieving father wobbled towards the vehicle, folded his hands, and then placed flowers on the body.
Taking suo motu cognizance of the death, the West Bengal Human Rights Commission ordered the Kolkata police commissioner to submit a report in seven days.
The commission has also formed its own investigating team and will examine witnesses and other evidence cause of Gupta’s death.
Mrinal Sen said Mamata Banerjee was to blame for the death.
“Who is responsible? The one who rules the state, under whom the police are, that is the chief minister is responsible for this death,” Sen said.
Even the Congress voiced dismay.
“With (Trinamool) taking over, we had thought the state will witness change. What I see is the politics of police killing students … has come back,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said.
The death in Kolkata triggered protest demonstrations in Chennai, Kerala and New Delhi.
In the national capital, over 100 students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University staged a noisy protest outside Banga Bhawan, which belongs to the West Bengal government.
Some students tried to scale the boundary wall but were stopped by police.