We were standing startled in front of a small room until someone from the locality told us. “This is the place where Abhimanyu was born and brought up. There were five people living in this room till two days back. But now only four remains.” No one in the group could resist the tears rolling down the eyes while entering the room. A mother, father, brother and a sister were sitting muted in front of the photo of our comrade, his bloodstained mobile phone and his note-book. In my wildest imagination, it never struck me that five people can together stand straight in such a small space. What must have been the depth of love they shared in that one room-home!!! What could have been the closeness between hearts he enjoyed till his last breath!!!
An unforgettable daybreak
Early morning of 2nd July 2018 is still a horrific memory for those who believe in a democratic and creative campus spirit. By 2 o clock in the morning news about the attack on SFI activists and death of a student at Maharajas College came out as a shockwave. Whoever heard the news wished it was all a bad dream from which one could wake up. No one ever associated with SFI in Ernakulam could digest that, a student was stabbed to death inside Maharajas, the most romanticised campus in Kerala. As every student of Kerala, Maharajas was a dream of Abhimanyu, which he attained with his own efforts. He plunged into its heart, with his natural and innocent smiles. He was captivated by the unbreakable bonds of friendships and comradeship he earned from the college. By singing and dancing along with his friends, he enlivened his campus.
That night, the Maharajas was getting ready to receive its new guests. The students were busy in finishing the decorations to extend a warm welcome to their juniors. Those happiest moments were the time they chose to eliminate Abhimanyu from the earth. How cruel they were to destroy the happiness of a family, the hopes of a community and the joy of an entire campus space with just one stab. What could have been the trauma of the newcomers who were eagerly waiting that night to land into their dreamland next day, instead stepping into a campus dampened and reddened with the blood of comrade Abhimanyu. The Centenary auditorium of Maharajas which was all set to welcome the new entrants of the campus turned into a farewell space for Abhimanyu. The auditorium was echoed with the mourning of his parents. The hall has reverberated with the slogans raised by his comrades bidding adieu to him.
July 1st was a very much normal day. Nothing unusual was reported that entire day, except for a usual scuffle between students about a wall writing. The Campus Front wrote its name on the wall booked by SFI. There was an argument between students over this issue. To mark the protest against the undemocratic behaviour of Campus Front, SFI activists painted “Reject Communalism” on the wall writing of Campus Front. Citing the evening squabble as the reason, later in the night, a thoroughly prepared plan was implemented by the NDF-Popular Front forces to create an insecure atmosphere in the campus. The NDF-Popular Front criminals from outside the campus entered Maharajas with deadly weapons and started attacking the SFI activists. Hearing this news of the assault on his comrades, Abhimanyu, who reached the campus just a few hours back after fulfilling his organisational responsibilities in his native place, ran to the campus from the hostel. The specially trained killer-wing of Popular Front proficiently ensured his death with only one stab. Comrade Arjun who was injured badly along with comrade Abhimanyu had a very narrow escape. After many days of treatment in the hospital along with his strong determination to fight against the forces which killed his dearest friend, Arjun came back to life by defeating the death. Comrades Abhimanyu and Arjun are the victims of an intolerant politics, which cannot endure dissenting voices. The criminals have attacked Arjun and Abhimanyu for referring Campus Front as communal, for publically writing “reject communalism”. What else should have they addressed an organisation, which has its political base only on religion.
The entire episode was a perfectly scripted one to create panic among the student community of Maharajas who out rightly rejected the Campus Front for its communal ideology. This incident should be read along with the efforts put by Campus Front for the past few years to gain a foothold and to make a unit in the Maharajas College, in which they had been unsuccessful due to the dearth of students support. The attack was a part of the strategy of disrupting peace and harmony in college campuses of Kerala, the dominant sources of resistance against all kinds of communal politics. Although one of the accused in Abhimanyu’s murder had recently enrolled as a student in the College, most of the others were not students, with some being more than 30 years old. Some of the group members were not even from Ernakulam district, the fact which clearly points to the planned nature of the assault.
Through this attack Popular Front and NDF aimed at instilling fear among the SFI activists, who play the lead role in combating their communal-fundamental agendas. But they failed to understand that these students are the holders of the flag of an organisation which garners strength from countless brave martyrdoms. They forgot to realise that the attacks on this largest student organisation of the country, do not demoralise the activists, but strongly remind them about their unending responsibility to fight communalism and their incessant obligation to strengthen the secular left fabric of the society.
Comrades in Vattavada remembers Abhimanyu’s hastiness in reaching Ernakulam on the 1st of July itself. He set out to Kochi in the afternoon, just after attending the DYFI village conference. Since the transportation facility was scarce in his area, he started the journey in a vegetable cart came to transport vegetables from his place. He was very adamant in reaching the college that night itself as he wanted to join his comrades to adorn his dearest campus. Yes, that was the commitment he always maintained towards the organisation which he belonged to.
A Dalit-first generation learner from a remote village of Idukki district, who struggled throughout his life to reach a renowned college of Kerala for higher studies, smiled vividly, danced and sang with his friends without a tint of inferiority complex. In two districts, separated by unmeasurable distance, he intervened politically regularly. He was a complete political personality.
One would amaze at the political clarity acquired by a young man with only 20 years of life experience, who spent his entire life in a remote village room that did not have enough space to cry alone or to enjoy a dream in solitude. His writings on social media trace his political evolution. His facebook notes reveal the politics on which he puts faiths to fulfill his dreams of equality. They underline his unending commitment towards his organisation, the politics of which he imbibed till his last breath. His writings echo his unyielding resistance against communalism. His most progressive ideas about gender justice and pseudo-morality. His assimilation of energy from the martyrdoms. His in-depth understanding of the need for campus politics. His unbound love towards his college, his locality. His firm belief in the role of left politics in resisting the penetration of communal forces in the campus.
He was someone who showed full justice to the slogan of “study and struggle” raises by SFI. He struggled for studying, struggled along with studies and studied for struggling. The walls of his village were filled with the posters of SFI, which must have pasted by Abhimanyu himself. Just beside those posters, his smiling faces were looking at the people who came to pay last tribute to him. The criminals struck down not only Abhimanyu, not even a family but the dreams of a community which remained alienated from all sorts of the development process. They chopped off a future scientist who has gained the life-experiences to understand even the smallest needs of the lowest strata of the society. Yes, Like Rohit Vemula, he dreamt of becoming a scientist and to utilise his expertise in improving the life of his community. To attain his dream, he worked during nights, weekends and vacations.
The number of responsibilities he shouldered along with his academics and his part-time jobs is unimaginable for many of us. Maybe, the struggles with life must have equipped him with enough strength to endure any pressure. Whatever he achieved in his life were the fruits of his own endeavours. In 2018 itself how many responsibilities he had assumed newly. Got elected as the first secretary of SFI Vattavada local committee. Became the member of Idukki district committee of SFI. Chosen as the mess secretary of Maharajas boys’ hostel. Abhimanyu’s teacher who is also the NSS coordinator of the college shares her memory of an efficient NSS unit secretary who at the same time enthusiastically indulged in the Chemistry department association activities. With sleepless nights and tireless days, he conquered everyone with his pleasant behaviour, friendly nature, and his commitment.
The people in his neighbourhood told us that whenever he came to the village, he kept on inspiring each and every child of that locality to gather more and more knowledge. They remembered his strenuous efforts to convince the parents to send their children to the new worlds for higher education.
He shows us that a person living with half-filled stomach can laugh full-heartedly. He proves us that a young man who experienced all sorts of backwardness throughout his life can radiate incredible energy to others standing around him.
Attacks on SFI activists
The martyrdom of comrade Abhimanyu points out to the necessity to intensify the fight against communalist forces in campuses and society. Across the country, SFI activists are the targets of all the fundamentalist-communal forces; be it ABVP/RSS or NDF/Popular Front/Campus Front Forces. In their broad politics, RSS and NDF (Popular Front) are not different, but the two sides of the same coin, which build their entire politics on religion and hatred.
NDF and Campus Front has a dark history of spreading communal venom in society and Campuses. There has been a series of attacks unleashed by NDF on SFI activists in last many years. No one has forgotten comrade A.B. Bijesh, the then joint secretary of SFI Thrissur district committee, who was brutally murdered by the NDF goons in 2009 for rallying people against their fundamental activities. The murder of Abhimanyu was the latest among them.
However, the blood-thirsty communal goons didn’t stop there. The very same day of comrade Abhimanyu’s murder, just after the protest demonstration over the barbarous incident, SFI activists in Alappuzha were attacked by the Popular Front with swords and knives. While this piece was being written, an SFI activist from Madappally college comrade Sajith has survived a murder attempt with deadly weapons by Popular Front of India goons.
It is not surprising that all the communal-fundamentalist groups get discomforted by the growing acceptance of SFI politics among the student community, as SFI is the strongest barrier that deters their infiltration to campuses and thus defeats their efforts to communalise our educational institutions.
Responses to the incident
The gruesome murder of a 20-year-old boy shook the consciousness of humanity. A public outcry over the incident has sprung up from all corners of society. A widespread solidarity against the NDF-Popular Front communal politics was built up under the leadership of SFI and other left forces. SFI Central Executive Committee has called for a national protest day by all its units the next day itself to mark the strongest resistance against the brutal assaults took place in Maharajas. In all district centres of Kerala, protest meetings were held to project the political violence of Campus Front. In all campuses, SFI undertook various programs to explain the dangers of communal politics and the violence attached to it. The large mobilisation of the student community in all these programmes indicates the growing antagonism of students against the communal forces which distort the peaceful atmosphere of campuses.
The fund collection campaign for Abhimanyu’s family was very well received by the public. From the nook and corner of the society, people contributed to register their dissent. Within 2 days, SFI Kerala state committee has collected 33 lakh rupees only from the campuses. To accomplish Abhimanyu’s vision of bringing the new generation of Vattavada into the mainstream, for which he believed education and knowledge as the only means, various campaigns and programmes have been initiated by SFI. Across the world, people enthusiastically participated in the book collection campaign to fulfil Abhimanyu’s dream of having a library in his village.
As a tribute to Abhimanyu, SFI achieved thumping victory in college union elections in all universities of Kerala. The students of Maharajas kept their promises to their beloved comrade by voting down all the communal forces in the campus. SFI has swept all seats in the Maharajas college union elections with a huge margin. News of incomparable victory has emerged from Rajasthan and other parts of the country. Students in JNU celebrated their unparalleled victory over ABVP by raising slogans about Abhimanyu and wearing t-shirts printed with his immortal smile.
Across the country, more and more students are getting rallied under the flag Abhimanyu held to his heart till his end. The slogans he raised are being shouted by more and more tongues. Countless fingers are joining together to achieve his dream about a “world that belongs to the alienated and the oppressed”. Comrade Abhimanyu continues to be a symbol of resistance. He remains to be an eternal source of inspiration for the struggling masses. He lives immortally in the hearts of generations to come.