In the book, Simon Britto describes what happened in the wee hours of July 2, when a group of goons, allegedly members of Campus Front of India, stabbed Abhimanyu to death.

Simon Britto in his memoir writes what happened on the night Abhimanyu was killed
news Memoir Thursday, July 02, 2020 - 11:09

“Quite unusually at 3 am in the morning, my landline rang. It was Swami Samvidanand from Abhedananda Ashram in Haridwar. He said in one breath, ‘There has been a tussle in Maharaja’s. One dead. Another is in critical condition… Difficult to say if he’ll sustain.’

“At once I called Mustafah at Maharaja’s, but couldn’t reach him. Ameer took the call. His words fell on my heart like fireballs... Like lightning… I came to know that Abhimanyu was stabbed and killed. Arjun had two stab wounds and was critical. Vineeth had also been stabbed,” writes late CPI(M) leader Simon Britto in his memoir titled ‘Maharaja’s, Abhimanyu’. The memoir of the veteran leader, which was released last October, nine months after he died at the age of 64, speaks largely about his days with Abhimanyu M, the Kochi Maharaja’s College student who was brutally killed on the campus in 2018.

Simon Britto, a former MLA, was himself a victim of a murderous attack by political rivals. At the age of 29, Britto, who was a leader of the Students Federation of India (SFI) – the student wing of the CPI(M) – and a student at the Government Law College in Ernakulam, was paralysed for life after he was stabbed by rivals. But the tragedy did not deter Britto. His active political life and involvement in society, despite his health ailments, has touched and inspired many.

Simon Britto

It was in July 2017 that Britto first met Abhimanyu, who was then a first-year student. The young man was a native of Vattavada, a small hillside village in Idukki district that shares a border with Tamil Nadu. Their friendship soon grew into a special bond as Abhimanyu started to help Britto in writing the manuscript for his upcoming book. But exactly a year later, Abhimanyu was brutally killed on campus, allegedly by workers of the Campus Front of India (CFI), the student wing of the Popular Front of India, sending shock waves across political Kerala. His death horrified Britto, his wife Seena and daughter Nilavu for whom Abhimanyu had become part of their family as their dear Abhi.

Britto, who was never inclined to write an autobiographical account, wrote about his memoir, “I’ve dreaded autobiographical accounts, because such writings always create enemies. But it was Abhimanyu’s murder that made me write this… I write this from the deep connection we shared.”

The night of bloodshed

On July 1, 2018, the day before the start of a new academic year in Maharaja’s College, Britto writes, Abhimanyu had come back to college from his hometown, hoping to welcome the freshers the next day. But that night, he breathed his last.

Britto writes: “At night Abhimanyu was in the hostel talking with his friend Arjun when another student Nandhu came running to tell them that CFI workers were sticking posters and writing on the walls that they (SFI) had booked.” Hearing this, Abhimanyu along with Arjun and another student went to see what was happening.

“When Arjun and Abhimanyu reached the place, they saw about 16 goons there. They had finished sticking posters and were moving towards the women’s hostel. Some students who were around were standing aside in fear. Abhimanyu called out loudly: ‘Whoever has booked the spot first, it belongs to them. This is the practice that has been prevailing ever since politics started here.” Hearing this, the other students who were standing aside in fear came together and started to rip off the posters. On the wall that CFI had overwritten in blue letters, Abhimanyu wrote with red paint, ‘Vargeeyatha Thulayatte’, meaning ‘Let communalism be doomed.’

“Seeing this, the goons started creating a commotion. But the students who were with Abhimanyu stood around him and raised their voice against the goons. On hearing this, the goons retreated a bit. Then someone among the goons called out saying ‘come we can talk and resolve this’. On hearing this, when the students in the front moved forward, the goons surrounded them on three sides. One of them delivered two deep stabs to Arjun (then a second-year degree student). Seeing this, Abhimanyu thrust forward to stop it but Arjun pushed him back. At this point, someone grasped Abhimanyu’s hands from behind while another one stabbed him in the heart, a single stab that went right through his heart… and Abhimanyu was pushed backwards with force,” Britto writes.

A third student, Vineeth, was also injured. Arjun was in intensive care for many days following the attack but Abhimanyu lost his life minutes after he was stabbed.

Describing Abhimanyu’s last words, Britto writes, “ the students lifted Abhimanyu they saw blood gushing out as if it was coming from a ruptured balloon. They tried to get an auto rickshaw, but none of them stopped. When they reached the road behind the B.Com department, they laid him on the ground. He was gasping for breath, but with half-opened eyes he said ‘shouldn’t let them go...’”

Simon Britto paying homage to Abhimanyu (Image credits: FB / CPI(M))

Learning about the assault, some other hostel students went out to call inmates from the Government Law College hostel nearby. Britto writes that some of the students who went around the area in bikes spotted the criminals who attacked the students. “They ran when they saw the students, but the students managed to get hold of three of them. When one of the students asked who stabbed them, one of the goons said it was not him but the ‘Nettor gang’. The students handed him over to the police.”

Even though it is two years since the brutal assault and murder of Abhimanyu, it was only recently that the key accused in the case – the man who stabbed Abhimanyu – was nabbed. He surrendered earlier this month at the trial court in Ernakulam. The accused, Sahal AH, a native of Nettor in Kochi and a member of the Popular Front of India, is the 10th accused in the case.

‘He dreamt of a new dawn’

Abhimanyu was 19 when he left his one-room house in Vattavada, where he lived with his farmer parents and siblings, to join B.Sc Chemistry in Maharaja’s College.

In the initial months of joining the college, Britto writes in the book, Abhimanyu’s ‘home’ was at a corner in a restaurant in the city, where he used to wash dishes after his class hours. Britto also writes how within a short period of time Abhimanyu became everyone’s favourite in class and also in the campus. While working actively with the SFI, Abhimanyu was elected secretary of the college hostel. He also worked actively with the National Services Scheme (NSS) unit of the college.

Abhimanyu dreamt of changing the lives of the people in Vattavada, Britto writes. “Life is the same and equal, whether it is a blade of grass, a worm or a human being. Though the villagers don’t have money, they are hardworking and they should be able to lead respectable lives. He dreamt of a village where there was no hunger, where one would get due reward for hard work. He was waiting for a new dawn.”

Though the book primarily delves into Britto’s days with Abhimanyu through the conversations they had, it is also a historical account of the Communist movement in Kochi, student politics, and inevitably, about the more than a century old Maharaja’s College. Though Britto was never a student of the college himself, till his last he was closely associated with the students of the college.

Read: Life with Simon Britto: Seena, wife of late CPI(M) leader, speaks of their great love

Watch Abhimanyu's mortal remains kept to pay homage at Maharaja's College: