March 31, 2020
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Red Island Erupts

JNU students take to the streets over a comrade's killing in Bihar

Red Island Erupts

LATE on April 1, a day after the sensational killing of two businessmen by a police team, Nikhil Kumar was in  Bihar Niwas, desperately trying to placate a group of angry students. He had just been asked to step down as police chief and this group of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students refused to disperse till they had met Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav to protest against the killing of a comrade, Chandrashekhar Prasad, twice president of the JNU Students' Union and a leader of the CPI(M-L) Liberation.

Laloo was in Delhi to attend the UF's steering committee meet after the Congress pulled the rug from under the 13-party coalition. But he refused to see the students. Instead, they were attacked by a group of Laloo supporters led by the chief minister's brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav. According to the FIR filed by the students, Sadhu Yadav snatched a firearm from one of the constables on duty and opened fire at the students. They were also beaten up with iron rods and sticks. On April 4, days after Chandrashekhar's killing and widespread protests, Laloo announced a high-level probe into the incident.

A committed CPI(M-L) Liberation worker, Chandrashekhar was murdered in his home town Siwan in Bihar on March 31 when he was campaigning to make the party's statewide bandh a success. According to reports, he was addressing a street corner meeting when bullets were pumped into his body. The culprits—alleged supporters of notorious Janata Dal MP Sahibuddin and local strongman—fled the scene. Chandrashekhar died on the spot while two others, party colleague Shyam Narayan Yadav and a member of the audience, died on the way to hospital.

Chandrashekhar was emerging as a youth leader in Siwan where the CPI(M-L) has made considerable inroads in the last decade and poses a threat to the Janata Dal. "Although Sahibuddin won the last Lok Sabha election from the area, he felt threatened when Chandrashekhar was deputed there by the party," says CPI(M-L) spokesman Brij Bihari Pandey. Chandrashekhar was a potential candidate for the next election.

Chandu, as he was popularly called by his JNU friends, came to Delhi in 1990 and enrolled for an M. Phil course. In Patna University, he was an active member of the CPI's student wing, the All-India Students' Federation (AISF), but he was disillusioned with its ideology.

Then, he was attracted to the radical politics of the CPI(M-L) and joined its ranks. He almost singlehandedly made Liberation's student wing, the All-India Students' Association, a force to reckon with in JNU. He was working on his Ph.D. on Bihar's most popular folk form—Bidesia. Days before he was killed, Chandrashekhar wrote to one of his friends in Delhi: "Maybe, I won't be able to see you again." Little did he know that his words would come true.

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