EVEN BEFORE EAST BENGAL fans' historic protest against club officials suffered a lathicharge by the police, incidents of violence against the club's supporters were already happening.
The group of pro-official fans who had gathered in front of the club's main gate had engaged in violent behaviour even before the fans' protest had begun.
After a mediaperson and his cameraman were attacked and beaten up while covering the event on a live stream, word emerged of a fan also being assaulted by the pro-official crowd.
Suman Kumar Rath, who had gone to the event with the hope to participate in a peaceful protest, never thought he would be targeted and beaten up by people who claimed to be fans of the same club that he has loved all his life.
Speaking to TFG about what happened, Suman said,
"When I reached the front of the Leslie Claudius Street, by the Eden Gardens, things hadn't really started off. There were just a handful of fans that I knew. They said let's go to the club. So we went and sat over there for some time. When we were coming back out, I got a call. That's when I fell behind others."
Finding him separated from his friends, he had become an easy target for the pro-official group who vastly outnumbered him,
"They first started verbally abusing me. They used unspeakable words and said, you're here to sell the club. I didn't say anything, just walked away from them. But a few yards ahead I suddenly found myself surrounded by members of the pro-official faction. Suddenly I got attacked. About two dozen people landed blows on me. I fell down and they still kept hitting me. My spectacles were broken and my shirt got torn. I somehow managed to get back up and ran out of there."
Although Suman was not among the fans who had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance from the protest site, he was still left with injuries from the assault,
"My whole body is in pain. Imagine what happens to you when twenty people gang up on you. My neck, my back, my legs they're all aching. But I didn't say a thing to anyone. I was still there till four thirty protesting with my fellow fans."
Asked what he wished for his club going forward, Suman's answer was simple but poignant,
"All I want is for us to keep playing football. That's what we go out to support. What else would we want from the club? What did we go there for? Let the club play, in CFL, in Durand, in ISL. We want the club to be the champion. We are fans, we don't have anything else to ask for."
In the end, the thousands of East Bengal fans who participated in the protest today, risking their health in the middle of the pandemic and braving serious threats of injuries, they were all out there demanding the same thing as Suman - for the club they love to play football and be the source of joy for millions it has been for over a century. That's all.