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Trinamul march with body, but low-key

- CM skips procession; party makes measured move to avoid jumping gun on supporter death

Jan. 16: The Trinamul Congress today took out a procession in Calcutta with the body of Trinamul Chhatra Parishad supporter Paresh Mondal, who died yesterday after being allegedly beaten up by SFI activists, but kept it a low-key affair.

Mamata Banerjee was scheduled to take part in the procession but did not, prompting suggestions that the chief minister was trying to send out the message that she was not interested in politics over bodies.

“Paresh was our supporter. We had to hit the streets as our local leaders told us that he died after being assaulted by SFI activists. But as the cause of death is yet to be officially ascertained, the chief minister stayed away from the rally,” a Trinamul leader said.

As Opposition leader, Mamata rarely missed the opportunity to take out processions with bodies, accusing the Left of murder. After the death of nine persons in firing from a CPM leader’s house in Netai in 2011, she had organised a march in Calcutta with the bodies, bringing traffic to a halt.

But this time, Trinamul avoided organising such a disruptive protest on a day student union elections were held in six Calcutta colleges.

Only two senior ministers, Partha Chatterjee and Jyotipriya Mullick, took part in today’s procession from Peace Haven to the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road.

“Jumping to conclusions before the post-mortem report could cause embarrassment. We remember how Left leaders had to eat humble pie after the post-mortem revealed that SFI leader Sudipto Gupta had died after his head hit a lamppost, not because of police excesses as they had alleged,” a Trinamul leader said.

The leader said another reason why Trinamul kept today’s programme low-key was chief secretary Sanjay Mitra’s condemnation of “body politics” after the death of the Madhyamgram double rape victim. “The chief secretary had accused the Opposition of doing politics by bringing out a procession with the girl’s body,” he said.

Minister Chatterjee was cautious in his comments. “A thorough probe has to be conducted first. If it is proved that injuries caused his (Paresh’s) death, those responsible would have to face punishment,” he told reporters at the beginning of the procession.

Mullick struck an accusatory note. “Paresh was kicked and punched by SFI activists,” he said.

Trinamul sources said Mullick, who accused senior CPM leaders of instigating the SFI, had adopted an aggressive stand to counter the Left’s claw-back efforts in North 24-Parganas. “As an MLA from the district, he has to keep in mind the sentiments of local people,” a Trinamul source said.

SFI leaders denied the allegation of attack. “The allegations are baseless,” said Madhuja Sen Roy, the state president of the SFI.

Some academics today accused the government of lifting the ban on student union polls without putting in place safeguards. Elections had been suspended for six months after the death of a police sub-inspector during elections at Garden Reach College last year.

“Although the government has started working on its promise to rid campuses of violence by preparing guidelines along the lines of the Lyngdoh Commission recommendations, nothing has happened so far because a section in the government is against depoliticising college polls,” an education department official said.

MK on union polls

Asked about campus violence and Paresh’s death, governor M.K. Narayanan said on the sidelines of a programme in West Midnapore: “The problem is that, we have politics in college union elections. Remove politics from there and then we have a scope to overcome the problem.”