“Brutal,” exclaimed a poster that accompanied the body of 23-year-old Students’ Federation of India (SFI) leader Sudipta Gupta, who died in police custody, as the city witnessed a massive outpouring of grief and outrage on the streets here on Wednesday, a day after the tragedy.
Huge crowds had gathered at every halt in the over six-hour long procession that accompanied the body of the slain SFI leader from the city’s SSKM hospital to the cremation ground.
Cries of “dhik-dhik-dhikkar [condemnation],” posters declaring “Chi! Chi! [shame],” and slogans demanding “answers from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee” into the circumstances of Sudipta’s untimely death could be heard all along. Not only overwhelming grief, but outrage over the incident was also palpable.
The Left may demand a judicial inquiry into the incident, but Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien already stoked a controversy when he claimed that from the CCTV footage it appeared to be an “accident.”
The crowds had started gathering at the hospital itself, with many choosing to walk alongside the hearse that was carrying the body. In time, those who chose to walk gave way to an escort of SFI activists on motorcycles — that accompanied the hearse like a guard of honour.
The first stop was Netaji Nagar College — Sudipta’s alma mater and the place of his baptism in student politics.
But the most heart-wrenching scenes were witnessed when the procession made its way to the Sudipta’s residence in New Garia on the south-eastern fringes of the city. The area was packed with neighbours and acquaintances who had known Sudipta.
Sudipta’s anguished father offered a few brief prayers over his son’s body before, overcome with grief, he had to be led away back inside. His sister, Sumita Sengupta, also made a brief appearance when she broke down in tears.
By this time, the mound of garlands offered in tribute to Sudipta had nearly eclipsed his body, leaving only his badly bruised face to be seen.
The procession then made its way to the State headquarters of the SFI, where a temporary platform had been erected to place the body. A party flag was formally wrapped around Sudipta, but within minutes, it was buried beneath the wreaths and garlands of white flowers that were offered in tribute.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself came to pay his last respects, climbing up onto the platform offering a bouquet of red flowers and a red salute. Fellow Polit Bureau members Biman Bose and Surya Kanta Mishra as well as the leadership of other Left parties were also present.
A large banner with Sudipta’s photograph smeared in red led the last leg of the procession.