Kolkata:The death of Sudipto Gupta, a 22-year-old post graduate student and leader of Communist party of India- Marxist (CPM) students’ wing Student Fedaration of India (SFI), created a major unrest in the city Wednesday.
Police claimed that SFI state committee member Gupta’s death on Tuesday was an accident while the victim’s kin alleged that he was beaten up in custody after his arrest along with others while protesting against the state government’s decision to put students’ union elections on hold.
According to police, Gupta and some other SFI activists were herded into a bus after their arrest while leading a protest to the Raj Bhavan (Governor House). He was leaning out of the bus on the way to Presidency Jail when he hit a lamp post.
However, eyewitness claimed that Gupta died due to police torture. “We were herded into the bus. Suddenly, the bus stopped at Maidan. When we refused to come out, it went near the Presidency Jail. There the policemen inside wielded lathis (batons) at us and even kicked us. In the melee, Sudipto fell,” said Tanushree Mondal a SFI activist who was with Gupta inside the bus.
Another eyewitness, SFI General Secretary Satarup Ghosh, said, “He was hit on his head so hard that one of his eyes came out. We were courting arrest when the policemen started beating us in the bus. One of the policemen hit Sudipto’s head with a stick and he fell down. We demanded immediate medical help for him, but the police refused.”
But police officials refuse to accept this version. “Police didn’t resort to any lathicharge. In fact, one policeman Biswajit Mondal, who was escorting the students in the bus, was attacked. This has been captured in the CCTV footage. Slogan shouting students tried to scamper out of the bus together causing Sudipto’s fatal fall. We have arrested the bus driver Raju Das on charges of rash driving,” Jawed Shamim, special additional commissioner (Law and Order), said.
Terming the episode as “unfortunate”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “Any death is unfortunate. This is also unfortunate. State government will do all it can to stand by the family.” Banerjee made the statement to media outside the state-run hospital when she visited the other injured SFI activist but did not clarify if a judicial probe would be ordered as demanded by the CPM.
Meanwhile, victim’s father Pranab Gupta has demanded action and pledged to fight for justice at any cost. “I want them to be punished. How could they torture a 23-year-old boy like this? My son was beaten to death. Is it justice? I was a central government employee. I get pension. I cannot accept any money. It is against my principle. She (Mamata Banerjee) is offering me money, but can she return my son?” he questioned.
SFI leaders told reporters Wednesday that in spite of an advance notice by the student body, there was no adequate police deployment at the venue of their protest where over 6,000 students, including women supporters, had assembled. In protest against the incident, the SFI has called for a students strike in the state.