Protest against Gujarat genocide

AISA ‘s 48-hour mass hunger strike in Kolkata

THE NEWS of genocide in Gujarat did not generate student-youth activism in West Bengal, supposedly the citadel of the Left. Indifference and passivity had long suppressed activism among the students. The older generation, especially the left intellectuals who took initiative to collect relief fund for Gujarat victims, were lamenting the absence of the teenagers’ response to their call.

But the role of AISA, with its minimal presence in W.B., was different. Instead of satisfying itself merely with wall-postering, the AISA unit in Jadavpur University (JU) raised relief funds through intensive class-to-class campaign and sent students to Gujarat, the RSS’ slaughterhouse. AISA was the only student organisation that represented the democratic voice of W.B. in support of the victims in the relief camps in Ahmedabad.

Throughout the fund-raising campaign AISA demanded that Narendra Modi be sacked and called for the resignation of Advani and Vajpayee. Between 6th May 3 p.m. and 8th May 3 p.m., AISA organized a 48-hour mass hunger strike of students in a public place outside the campus on these demands. Some school students also participated in the hunger strike. A humble invitation over telephone was enough for leading intellectuals of the city to respond and rush there to render support to the programme. This showed the agony in their mind over the issue and their eagerness about the younger generation’s participation. Theatre personalities like Rudraprasad Sengupta, Swatilekha Sengupta and Usha Ganguly, famous economist Amiya Bagchi, writers like Abul Basar, Subodh Sarkar, Mallika Sengupta, Nabarun Bhattacharya, Jiyad Ali, journalist-activists like Imanul Haque, Kinnar Roy etc. came to meet the fasting students and addressed the gathering. Famous composer-singer Mousumi Bhowmik dropped in there several times and rendered several of her songs, the contents of which vibed well with the spirit of the programme. Renowned ecological activist Prof. Sjoy Basu expressed his support and strong concern for the programme by offering each student a printed copy of the poem “The road not taken” by Robert Fast.

Many teachers of J.U., general students, RYA comrades, CPI(ML) leaders and cultural activists were present to help organize the programme. And at the end of the programme, famous writer Mahasweta Devi, noted linguist Dr.Pabitra Sarkar and CPI(ML) State Secretary Comrade Kartik Pal came to formally conclude the programme. Mahasweta Devi could not control her emotions during her closing speech. A huge gathering witnessed the ritual of breaking the fast.

The three-day-long propaganda against the state-sponsored genocide in Gujarat gained good coverage, both in the electronic and the print media. It was actually an appeal to the conscience of secular and left-democratic forces to act and fittingly respond to the demand of the situation.

– Apala De and Hiranmay Mistri