AIFRTE Statement Condemning the Brutal Attack of West Bengal Police on Students and SFI Activists
24th April, 2013
Brutal Attack of West Bengal Police
on Students and SFI Activists is Highly Condemnable
The All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) strongly condemns the brutal conduct of the West Bengal state police against activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI) who have been protesting against violent attacks and vandalism across the state by cadres and supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The tragic death in police custody, allegedly due to injuries inflicted by police beating, of the 22-year-old SFI leader Sudipto Gupta sparked outrage and anger not only across the state, where thousands joined the funeral procession, but all over the country. The loss of the young activist’s life was deeply mourned. The West Bengal Human Rights Commission took suo moto cognizance of the incident and directed the police to submit a report within seven days, i.e. by April 9, 2013, but the police have failed to comply with the directive. Unfortunately, the insensitive and partisan response of the West Bengal chief minister - her attempt to pre-judge the issue by arriving at conclusions that, as reported in the print media, run counter to the post-mortem findings which are not being made public, and her refusal to appoint a judicial inquiry - suggest that the impunity with which the police are functioning may also have political overtones.
The case of 19-year-old Santosh Sahani, first year student of Silliguri Surya Sen College who was arrested along with 51 other SFI activists at Silliguri on April 10, 2013, seems to strengthen the suspicion. Santosh, who had seen Sudipto die and had also been brutally beaten, was in a state of shock. He was hospitalized first at Silliguri District Hospital, but was shifted to North Bengal Medical College a few days later when his condition deteriorated in the jail. In an unprecedented act of barbarism the young student was handcuffed and chained to his hospital bed for several hours, and his cries to be taken to the toilet went unheeded. (The Indian Express, April 17th, 2013).
The West Bengal police actions are a particularly vicious example of the authoritarian political culture and anti-democratic repression being unleashed against teachers, students and karamchari unions and associations across the country in order to control and `discipline’ them as the marketization of higher education is aggressively promoted. The recent incident of assault and vandalism at Kolkata’s Presidency College shows the inherent danger of encouraging the rise of fascist and lumpen elements as a result of this ill-conceived policy.
The AIF-RTE therefore demands that the West Bengal government immediately
· sets up a judicial enquiry into the custodial death of Sudipto Gupta;
· takes prompt and appropriate action against police officials responsible for the barbaric treatment of Santosh Sahani;
· identifies and takes action against those responsible for the attack on the Presidency College, and its teachers and students.
The AIF-RTE strongly criticizes the Union Home Minister’s action in appointing an inquiry into the alleged `heckling’ by SFI students of Mamata Banerji in New Delhi when she herself has described Sudipto Gupta’s custodial death as a “petty incident” not worthy of being investigated by a judicial commission. Protests that are well within democratic norms do not require such inquiries. Grave violations of a citizen’s right to protection in police custody on the other hand must be speedily investigated. There cannot be one law for the youth of the country and another one for politicians in positions of power.
PRESIDIUM, ALL INDIA FORUM FOR RIGHT TO EDUCATION