February 21, 2021

West Bengal: Police Brutality on Protestors: DYFI Activist Martyred

Debashish Chakraborty

FEBRUARY 11 will be remembered as yet another blot in the history of the TMC government in West Bengal. Police brutality on Left student-youth rally resulted in the death of DYFI activist Maidul Islam Midya and caused grievous injuries to scores of others.

Thousands of activists of 10 Left student and youth organisations, joined by student-youth organisations of the Congress, who marched to Nabanna, the citadel of power, demanding education and employment for all were mercilessly beaten up by Mamata Banerjee’s police.

Triggering memories of the fortification of Singhu border, one of the high points of the ongoing farmers’ protests, by Amit Shah’s police, the heart of Kolkata was dug up on the previous night to install permanent barricades.

On February 11th afternoon, when the young activists began their march with red cards in their hands, they were surrounded from all sides by the police, who had blocked all adjoining streets, lanes and by-lanes leaving no escape route for the protesting students and youth. They were greeted with gushing water from water cannons which flooded the Dharmatala crossing. Then came the tear gas shells. The young comrades were then showered with blows indiscriminately, mercilessly. The roads were awash with blood.

Banerjee police left no stone unturned to combat more than thirty thousand young comrades. Her administration deployed more than four thousand police personnel, four water cannons, barricades at 25 locations, drones monitoring the proceedings from the sky above, combat force, permanent aluminium barricades, four deputy commissioners of police and two joint commissioners of police. It was an unequal battle.

The chief minister, though, had to taste defeat at the hands of the protestors, early in the morning, when a delegation reached the doorsteps of Nabanna and planted their flag on the gates of the fountain of power. MLA Ibrahim Ali and other protestors were arrested in retaliation.

As time rolled on, the crowd swelled. Students and youth from far-flung districts of West Bengal assembled at College Street in front of the main gate of the Calcutta University. Poems were being recited; the national anthem was being sung along with sloganeering from a temporary dais. The leadership of the Left student and youth organisations gave a clarion call to the assembled activists to take on the might of the state head-on. There was no shying away from the fight. When the procession reached Dharamtala, the police pounced upon the agitators. The barbaric behaviour of the police towards unarmed students and youth, who carried packets of sweets for the policemen, and placards, demanding employment for all eligible candidates, took even ordinary bystanders by surprise. Young boys and girls, wanting to meet the chief minister to place their charter of demands, being brutalised by the police was a sight that this state had never witnessed during the Left Front regime. This horrendous atrocity stunned the residents of the state.

Though the attack was fierce, none of the agitators surrendered to the police or left the battleground. They clung to their flag and held it high even while being lashed by the gushing water from the cannons or when blows rained down on them. The permanent barricades were deracinated by the activists. Hundreds and hundreds of activists were injured, some seriously. Injured activists were shielded from the lathis of the police by their comrades.

In the evening, as word spread about the atrocities of the police, members of different Left youth, student and mass organisations hit the streets. Meetings were held, rallies were organised condemning the actions of Mamata Banerjee’s police. Along with these, preparations were made for the hartal on the next day.

On Friday, February 12th, a 12-hour hartal was observed in protest against the barbarous acts of the police on the previous day. The ordinary people of the state instinctively responded to the hartal. In a statement, on behalf of Left and other associate parties, Biman Basu congratulated the people of the state. Polit Bureau member, Mohammad Salim said, the hartal was testimony to the fact that lathi, tear gas and water cannons cannot break the movement of the students and the youth. He also said that legal action would be taken against police personnel who, breaking police code, hit the activists on their head.

In response to a question from journalists, CPI(M) state secretary, Surjya Mishra said very categorically, that the Left Front parties are very much in the fight for the ensuing assembly elections no matter how hard the BJP, TMC and their compliant media may try to portray otherwise. Mamata Banerjee’s administration and police cannot stop this fight even with all their might.

Even on this day, Banerjee’s police were out on the roads in full force and employed their full strength to break the hartal in Kolkata as well in the districts. But this could not deter the protestors from blockading roads and railway tracks. Rallies were held early in the morning. Threatening, arresting, beating or requesting did not cut ice with the agitators as they occupied one road after another. Hundreds were arrested to prevent the hartal from becoming a success.

Buses, trucks, autos and taxis mostly remained off roads. The state buses had very few passengers. Attendance in offices was lesser in comparison to other days. Since the early hours of the day, rallies were held in different parts of the state, in support of the hartal. These rallies had members of different mass organisations and functionaries of the Congress and other associate parties. Sit-in-demonstrations, rail roko, protest meets, bike rallies and street corners were held in all the districts. Workers of different mills and factories spontaneously supported the hartal by staying away from work.

This magnificent movement demanding employment took a tragic turn with the death of 31-year-old, Comrade Maidul Islam Midya, who was grievously wounded on February 11 after he was beaten unconscious by the police. Since the whole area was cordoned off with heavy steel barricades, the ambulance could not reach the spot-on time causing loss of precious time. However, his comrades carried him on their shoulders and he was brought to Iran Society for treatment. When his condition deteriorated further, he was shifted to a nursing home at Camac Street, where he breathed his last on Monday, February 15th morning.

Comrade Midya was a DYFI activist. He was a resident of Chorkala village in Bankura district. He left behind his mother, wife, two daughters and a dependent niece. He belonged to an exceedingly poor family and was the sole bread-earner.
His death sparked rage and hundreds of protestors gathered in front of police morgue. Hundreds of others marched to DYFI-SFI state office. The martyr’s body reached there in the evening where leaders paid their last respects among thunderous slogans.  Students and youth blocked an arterial road near Kolkata police headquarters for hours till late night.