04 BLOODY STUDENT POLITICS
By Tusha Mittal
Swapan Kole, 21, Student leader, HOWRAH DISRICT
A 21-YEAR-old student in West Bengal’s Howrah district, Swapan Kole’s first brush with politics came a year before politics killed him. On the afternoon of 16 December 2010, after filing his nomination papers for student union elections, Kole was leaving college when he found a mob waiting outside: about 30 men in black masks, with tilaks on their foreheads. Five policemen posted inside the college to maintain decorum during elections were of no use to him when he was attacked.
Kole was alone at the time. The group attacked him, smashing his head with iron rods. He managed to flee. A chase began. Kole hid on the terrace of a nearby house. The attackers followed and hunted him out. They flung him from the terrace, looked down, assumed he was dead and vanished. Kole lay senseless on the ground in a pool of blood. He was still alive when two friends rushed to the spot.
By then some policemen, who had been watching the drama unfold, also reached Kole. They put him in a rickshaw and began proceeding towards the local hospital. Suddenly, the mob reappeared from behind. Two men had swords that they pointed at the police while others once again smashed Kole’s head with a rod. They picked up the bleeding student and flung him down a bridge into a canal. When Kole was taken to the nearest hospital, his lungs were still working. He was then transferred to a hospital in Kolkata. But the efforts to save him despite three attacks in quick succession failed. He died the same day.
“I can name some of the people in the mob,” says Rajdeep Chakrabarty, Howrah district SFI secretariat member and Kole’s friend at the spot. “They are students from the same college and members of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMC students’ wing). Some of them had TMC flags. Others were people I have never seen before.” Howrah police have so far arrested two TMCP members for Kole’s killing.
THE SON of a paan-shop owner in West Bengal’s Howrah district, Sapan Kole grew up dreaming of being an artist. Behind his now garlanded photo in his room is a copy of Tagore’s Gitanjali, a clay model of ‘I love India’ and his drawing book with half-done sketches. Outside, his mother stands in silence refusing to say a word and his grandfather cries in disbelief. He cannot understand how he has outlived his grandson.
After graduating from a local district school, when Kole wasn’t able to get admission into a B.Com college, he found himself at the doors of the CPM’s student union. “It is impossible to get a college seat without sources,” says his father Srikanto Kole. “He approached senior political leaders in SFI (Student Federation of India). They helped him get admission. Since then, he felt indebted to the SFI.”
Six months into college, Kole became a part of the CPM’s student wing. Within a year, he became an active member. He began to wake up early to deliver newspapers and give tuitions to middle school students before college hours. “You won’t understand. I need the money,” he told his family.
It was at a late night dinner a few months ago that he revealed more. “He suddenly declared that he will be contesting the student union elections,” says his brother Tapas Kole, who works in a sari shop. “We all tried to dissuade him. It is okay to support a party from the periphery but I warned him not to get too close, too deep.” But Kole was determined. “He always had a spirit of service. He was never a political person but he got influenced in college,” Tapas says. “I guess he did not think that politics can kill.”