The Young Martyr
A martyr is someone who dies fighting for a cause. Sometimes one man’s martyr is another man’s terrorist. But Sudipta Gupta, the 22-year-old college student, was no terrorist by any standard or stretch of imagination. He didn’t carry arms or ammunition. He didn’t blow up bridges or bomb buildings. Sudipta Gupta was only protesting the Bengal government's decision to withhold college elections for six months and demanding that student polls be restarted. That’s all. But Sudipta Gupta died. He set out from home in the morning and was supposed to return at night. Maybe late at night, but return he would. “Student politics sucked him up and after college he always went to meetings. But he knew that my father was waiting up for him. I often told him to come home earlier,” his sister said. They had lost their mother a year ago. His neighbours remember him fondly. “He was the boy with gentle, intelligent eyes,” one of them said. No, Sudipta Gupta was no one’s terrorist. But yes, he is a martyr. Indeed, ultimately it is the idea of a just society which drives young people like Sudipta Gupta, sometimes even to their deaths.
All That Is Left
But while Left leaders take out protest rallies and express outrage over the death of a member of their youth wing, they really have no reason to feel any less culpable than the ruling Trinamool Congress party. In fact, Sudipta Gupta’s sister has lashed out at the CPI-M top leaders for what she called “instigating” her brother and others like him to throw themselves in the firing line and in harm’s way while they made mileage out of their deaths. Barely stopping short of calling her brother’s political activities a lost cause and his death a meaningless one, she urged all students to eschew politics in college and pursue education.
Eius Maxima Culpa
The one lesson that Mamata Banerjee still hasn’t learnt is the art of dodging uncomfortable questions. Most public figures trying to hide ugly truths rely heavily on a couple of phrases. Like: “the matter is being investigated and the guilty will be punished” or the ubiquitous and ambivalent “no comment.” But the Bengal chief minister still hasn’t learnt that lesson. So, just as she had declared without a reasonable doubt that the allegation of rape by a woman coming out of a Park Street nightclub was not a rape at all but a concocted story, so the 22-year-old Left student leader was not killed because of police brutality but his death was an “an accident". In fact she went ahead and called Sudipta's death a petty and small matter. Her more cautious police force has however said that no conclusions can yet be drawn as the matter is under investigation.
The Priority Jumble
One of my friends went to vote in the Assembly elections of 2011 to cast a no-vote. Why did she bother? She could have just not turned up at all. I asked her. She said, “No I wanted to make a point that I was not voting for anyone. I wanted to put it down on record that as a citizen I was exercising my right to vote to protest against the present crop of politicians and show them that I did not have faith in them.” Similarly today I want to make a point about refusing to write about a mega event that took place in the city this week and dominated front page headlines, on the same day that the boy died. That was the IPL inauguration ceremony and I only mention it to demonstrate that while the city was expressing outrage over the violent death of the student leader, the Chief Minister was attending the show where Bengal Brand Ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, who also is the owner of the cricket team named after Calcutta – Kolkata Knight Riders – was the star. Cricket is still only a game and the national hype surrounding this hand-me-down sport from our colonial past and the way the sport has been catapulted undeservedly to the status of something of a national pride is seriously disturbing.