Kolkata, April 4 (IANS) Students largely stayed away from schools and colleges while traffic came to a virtual standstill in many cities of West Bengal Thursday as Left youth groups protested over the death of a student activist in police custody.
Classes in educational institutions were hit across the state following a strike called by the Students Federation of India (SFI), the students wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, and other Left student organisations.
"Students protested spontaneously against the oppressive and outrageous assault by the state government on a democratic movement," SFI's all India general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee told IANS.
Sudipto Gupta, 24, an SFI activist, died in police custody Tuesday here after he took part in an agitation.
Commuters had a difficult time due to the protests during the day and there were long traffic snarls on major roads, particularly in Kolkata, following blockades put up between 11 a.m. and 11.15 a.m. by slogan shouting student activists.
Students of the Calcutta University staged a demonstration in front of the College Street campus, while blockades were organised in the city's Shyambazar Five Point, Ultadanga, Moulali, Hazra, Jadavpur police station, Behala Chowrasta and Metiabruz crossings.
In other districts, the blockades were organised in major towns.
Shops and commercial establishments remained closed in south Kolkata's Tollygunge, Dhakuria and Garia areas where the Left Front organised a 12-hour general strike,
Gupta's death has triggered outrage across the country.
The row was triggered with police claiming that Gupta died due to a head injury sustained after crashing against a lamp post while being taken to Presidency Correctional Home following his arrest. In contrast, the opposition Left Front alleged he succumbed to injuries sustained during a heavy lathi-charge by police.
State Chief Minister and ruling Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee called the death of Gupta "unfortunate" and pledged to help his distraught family.
Left activists said Gupta, a post-graduate student of Rabindra Bharati University, was "mercilessly beaten" while he and other students who had staged a protest seeking elections in colleges, were being taken in a bus to the Presidency Correctional Home.
In the process, Gupta reportedly fell from the bus and collapsed after crashing against a lamp post, said an SFI member.
"He was hit on his head so hard that one of his eyes popped out," added West Bengal SFI joint secretary Shatarup Ghosh.
The West Bengal Human Rights Commission has ordered a probe into his death.