'Injuries as Severe as Building Collapse Victims': Left Activist Hurt in Police Beating Dies

Maidul Islam Midda was a 31-year-old e-rickshaw driver and leaves behind a family of five, for whom he was the sole earner.

Kolkata: A Democratic Youth Federation of India activist who was injured in police action during a march to the West Bengal secretariat, Nabanna, by Left parties on February 11, succumbed to his injuries on Monday morning.

Maidul Islam Midda, a resident of Kotulpur in Bankura district, was an e-rickshaw driver by profession. The 31-year-old had travelled to Kolkata to attend an agitation against the state government, demanding jobs. The agitation saw Kolkata Police lathicharge, fire tear gas shells and water cannon at protesters, leaving hundreds with bleeding injuries. Many are still undergoing treatment.

A video of Midda – who is popular by his nickname ‘Farid’ – on the day of the agitation shows him writhing in discomfort in the aftermath of police action. Viewer discretion is advised.

Midda was treated by CPI(M) leader and doctor Fuad Halim, who said the muscle injuries on his body after the police beating were comparable to those sustained by people who are crushed under collapsed buildings.

“It led to a condition called Rhabdomyolysis which then led to acute renal failure . I treated him at my house for the night of February 11. On February 12, we did x-rays and on February 13 he was admitted to the Lifeline Nursing Home. As his condition worsened significantly, we had planned to do a dialysis on February 15, but he passed away in the morning,” said Halim.

Speaking to The Wire over phone from Midda’s house, DYFI general secretary Abhoy Mukherjee said he is survived by his widow, his mother, two daughters and a niece. “He was the only earning member of his family. He was a spirited comrade, a committee member and a regular participant in all organisational exercises. Of course he came to the Nabanna march,” said Mukherjee.

Mukherjee said DYFI will attempt to help Midda’s family. “His daughters are very young. They study in classes 7 and 5. We will try to help them in every single way. This is not the first time that Left workers have been killed by the police under the TMC government. There was Sudipto Gupta, there was Saifuddin Mollah,” he said.

Gupta, a student member of SFI, died after having been taken into police custody after a protest in 2013. In January 2014, SFI leader Mollah was killed in what the Left alleges was an operation by the TMC.

Mamata Banerjee’s reaction

PTI had initially reported that senior TMC leader and cabinet minister of the Mamata Banerjee government, Subrata Mukherjee, has called the death a “suicide”. However, late on Monday, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee commented on the death with the promise of financial assistance and a job.

“Every death is unfortunate. A probe is underway … I have come to know that even his (Midda’s) family members were not informed about where he was admitted. No police complaint was made in this connection,” said Banerjee, in answer to a reporter’s question.

“I have spoken to Sujan Chakraborty (Left Front leader) and told him that I am ready to provide a job and financial support to the family,” she added.

Banerjee also said that “in such cases the hospital or the nursing home must lodge a complaint with the local police station.”

“In this case nothing of that sort was done. Even his family members have said they came to know about Midda’s condition only on February 13. What happened in the intervening two days? Questions like these are emerging,” she said.

However, CPI(M) leaders have said that party members were in constant touch with Midda’s family, especially his brother-in-law.

PTI has reported that his widow has agreed to take a job.

‘A TMC government murder’

The CPI(M) has termed Midda’s death a “murder” by the Trinamool Congress government. In a tweet, CPI(M) MLA Sujan Chakraborty said, “A government which can beat a living, breathing youth asking for a job to death is merciless. The TMC’s forces have crossed all boundaries of civilised behaviour…the martyr’s sacrifice will not go to waste.”

The Kolkata Police has not commented on what caused the death yet, even though the chief minister said she had been in touch with top cops on how the post mortem was progressing.

An FIR was registered with the Shakespeare Sarani police station in connection with Midda’s death, a senior officer of Kolkata Police had told PTI. However, Shakespeare Sarani officer-in-charge Joysurja Mukherjee told The Wire that no complaints had been registered at the police station.

“The activists have given a deputation to the Commissioner of Police [Soumen Mitra] and have been asked to go to the New Market police station, under whose jurisdiction the incident happened,” Mukherjee said.

Kolkata high court lawyer Samim Ahammed confirmed that a complaint was being submitted to the Kolkata Police Commissioner and not to particular police station. “Treat this complaint as FIR, compensate the family, initiate action against the erring officials, that is what we ask now. On the day, police targeted critical body parts during their lathicharge, made no dispersal requests, made no attempts to rescue injured youth and dug up roads to prevent escape. Police ensured this death,” Ahammed said.

‘Gherao all police stations’

Left youth activists were initially locked in a standoff at the Kolkata Police morgue with police personnel. Activists demanded that the body be released to be brought back to the Dinesh Mazumdar Bhavan headquarters of the DYFI and Students’ Federation of India.

“We will take out a rally with the body. If they refuse to release it, we will agitate at the morgue itself,” Dipsita Dhar, SFI’s all-India joint secretary, had said. Midda’s body was eventually released and Left youth workers walked in a rally to the city’s central Chandi Chowk area.

Left parties have also given a call for a gherao of police stations across Bengal in protest against Midda’s death.

“It is a mark of how the TMC government sees people that a man who has come to ask for jobs can be killed. When there are BJP rallies, the police sprays saffron party workers with coloured water but for Left activists there is water cannon, tear gas and lathis,” said SFI general secretary Mayukh Biswas.

Biswas also said that the Delhi State Committees of DYFI and SFI has decided that members will be marching to the Banga Bhawan in New Delhi in protest, in addition to mobilising countrywide on February 16, Tuesday.

With assembly polls in fewer than three months, the political scenario in West Bengal is sharply divided between the TMC’s efforts to retain its position and BJP’s efforts to wrest it. The Left and the Congress have a polltime understanding and form a third front.

Note: This report has been updated to include Mamata Banerjee’s response.