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.


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