Massive state repression of protesters in West Bengal demanding jobs and educational opportunities

The call to mobilization given by left students and youth organizations had also expressed its support for the ongoing farmers agitation against the pro-corporate legislation

February 12, 2021
photo: CPI(M) West Bengal via Twitter 

Scores of left activists were injured when police unleashed violence against protesters marching to the state secretariat in Kolkata, the capital of the State of West Bengal on Thursday, February 11. The protests were organized in opposition to the policies of the state government and in support of more education and job opportunities for the youth. The protests also expressed opposition to the three farm laws enacted by the BJP-led government and were in support of the ongoing farmers agitation demanding that the laws be repealed. The call for the protests was given by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and other similar left-wing organizations. Smaller rallies were mobilized from different corners of the city which were to merge at a designated place before reaching the secretariat. The student and youth activists were to show “red cards” to the state government as a mark of dissent.

The West Bengal State government led by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) deployed the police in large numbers on all the routes. The police dug up the roads and erected iron and concrete barriers overnight in order to stop the protesters. They made use of tear gas, baton charges and water cannons to disperse the protesters leading to a large number of activists being seriously injured.

The police also detained a large number of protesters, mostly activists from the SFI and DYFI. As per the version of the police, 42 people were arrested and around 38 were hospitalized during the oppressive action on Thursday. However, activists and several media reports claim that the actual number of people arrested and injured is much higher. According to Newsclick about 150 protesters were injured, around 100 were hospitalized and close to 500 were arrested. The police also arrested Communist Party of India (Marxist) member of state legislature Ibrahim Mollah who had also participated in the protests.

Deliberate targeting of the protesters

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CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra condemned the police action calling it “highhandedness” and “unacceptable.” Several videos circulating on social media show the police deliberately targeting students and activists in complete violation of norms in such situations. Numerous activists were seen sustaining grievous head injuries as a result of targeted police assaults. Male police personnel were also seen manhandling women students

At some places cadres of the ruling TMC were also seen using police cover to attack the protesters. TMC has a history of violence against left cadres since it came to power in the state in 2011. The state secretary of the DYFI, Sayandip Mitra, is among those who were severely injured.

The left parties called for a 12 hour state shut down on Friday, February 12, to protest against the violence and oppression. The call was supported by the Indian National Congress and some other political parties as well. The SFI and other left-leaning student and youth  organizations have given a call for a two-day protest at the national level. On Friday, several protest actions were organized in Delhi along with other cities. Protests and demonstrations will be organized tomorrow as well.

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While some of the arrested activists have been released, a large number remain in detention

Published at peoplesdispatch.org