In cold blood
The murder of a student leader in Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, is an act of extreme brutality that points to the rise of communal and fundamentalist forces on Kerala’s campuses.
THE spark was a trivial incident. But the violence it ignited that night was staggeringly brutal and unsettling. Barely a few hours before a new academic year was to begin on July 2, skirmishes between activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the Campus Front at Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam over reserving space on campus walls for posters and slogans took a chilling turn.
In a college with a grand academic tradition, illustrious alumni and a long history of progressive student activity, a group of around 30 SFI activists reportedly challenged a smaller group of Campus Front members who were trying to usurp a wall that they had earlier marked for themselves to welcome freshers to the campus. The Campus Front members withdrew initially but reappeared, seemingly with renewed intent, by around midnight. A group of SFI students from the college hostel challenged them again. But the members of the SFI, a dominant force on the campus, quickly realised that this time they had pitted themselves not against fellow students but motivated assailants brought from elsewhere.
Eyewitness accounts say a brief one-sided struggle ensued and 19year-old Abhimanyu, an undergraduate chemistry student and a popular SFI leader, was stabbed as he tried to run away from the attackers. The weapon was thrust with clinical precision into his heart. He ran only a couple of feet, then collapsed, leaning onto a wall. At the General
Hospital, a short distance away, it was found that his wound was seven centimetres deep and four centimetres wide. Doctors told the police that Abhimanyu had been killed with a single thrust and turn of the knife, a result only professional assassins could have achieved.
Another student, Arjun, was also stabbed. In this case, the assailant drove the knife into his liver. Arjun’s condition was described as “critical” at the time of writing this report. A third-year postgraduate student, Vineeth, was also admitted with stab injuries but later discharged.
Students and teachers of the college are yet to come to terms with the events of that cursed night. It was an extreme act of brutality rarely seen on Kerala’s campuses. Abhimanyu belonged to a poor Dalit family in a farming village in Idukki district on the Kerala-tamil Nadu border. Acquaintances say that despite his personal circumstances, he was idealistic and had a fiercely independent mind. His friendly demeanour had endeared him to all those who came to know him, including his political opponents. He was good at his studies and in extracurricular activities. He was an eloquent speaker and an efficient organiser, a source of pride and strength for his uneducated parents, and siblings, friends and villagers. Abhimanyu’s dream was to serve his village and society. His comradeship and inherent humaneness had made him a constant companion to Simon Britto, one of the most prominent early victims of campus violence in Kerala, a former SFI activist, now a wheelchair-bound MLA.
“Abhimanyu came to Maharaja’s College from a situation of extreme poverty. But he was wealthy in terms
SFI leader who was stabbed to death in Maharaja’s College on July 1 night following rival claims for wall space (right) to welcome freshers.