An Open Letter to the Teachers and Parents of the Students of University College, Thiruvananthapuram

I am writing to express my deep dismay at the recent incidents at the University College, and more importantly, at your near-total inexcusable and cowardly passivity that not only permitted the culture of violence to grow in this institution, but also allowed the situation to be such that the aggrieved young people continue to be ostracized and threatened by fellow-students. It escapes my reason why responsible authorities at University College cannot recognize a few basic facts about higher education in post-independence democratic India : (1) the fact that all students, irrespective of caste, class, gender, and other such considerations, have equal rights of access and equal mobility inside the campus, and of course, an equal right to justice, (2) that violence by any section of students against other students is not permissible and must invite prompt action by authorities, (3) that any section of students subjected to violence have full rights to complain and obtain redressal, (4) that the dignity of women students is protected by law and the institution is bound to take action against erring parties following the process laid down by the law.

I can continue adding to this list, but I want to raise something here which the newspapers and other media have relatively ignored: your silence and compllicity in enabling violence. I wish to stress this: blaming students who behave like criminals may be necessary, but worse is your abandonment of responsibility. These are mostly very young people, in their teens or barely out of it. If they seek to enforce violent control over others, especially over women, it speaks of your failure. What kind of citizens have you produced, collectively? As a citizen and a tax-payer who contributes to the fat salaries you take home, I have a right to ask: who paid you to turn young people into social menaces, who allowed you to let them deteriorate into misogynists and monsters?

The women students who complained about the aggressive and sadistic attacks of male gangs who bolster the SFI there continue to live in fear. They are being stalked by motorcycle gangs; they could enter the campus only with the support of their mothers who accompanied them. The authorities there (yes, not the students) behaved crudely to these parents. These young women’s experiences were trivialized and even the police have been shamefully lax. I am a historian and I do know that the University College has a very long history of confining women to a corner, evident from documents produced from there, including old college magazines. There could have been a small period of some change in between, but it appears that things have never been as bad as they are now. The fact that teachers were unable to reassure and protect the aggrieved students only reveals how puny you are as human beings.Investigate the charges against these young women filed afterward by all means – though I cannot see how they legitimise the use of force by the so-called activists of the SFI – but stop supporting the violent.

I know that there a few brave souls among the teachers there who have worked tirelessly, braving the violent minions of the SFI leader-gang, to democratize college life there. I salute them. My questions are not to them, but the passive, largely privileged, shameless remainder who lick the soles of the politically powerful and turn a blind eye to the evil perpetrated by their student-minions. I can imagine some if you smirk – those of you who wallow in social privilege, who think the fat UGC salaries are your birthright. All I say is, shame on you, because you are nothing but useless parasites on this society. I can see some others throw up their hands in exasperation, saying that resisting these barbarians would be fatal. My sympathies are with you, but the fact that you have not even tried to build collective resistance is inexcusable. To those of you who try to build up the place academically, organizing seminars and other events, in the hope that this will somehow compensate for the ugly lack of functioning democracy in the place, I really pity you, because your truly earnest labours are entirely fruitless. To parents, I have nothing to say – I cannot make sense of your blindness. You imagine that what goes on there will not affect your ward, and that is a blindness which implies that you really do not care for your children. It appalls me is that teachers do not see that higher education in general, and especially the Arts and Humanities, is essentially a preparation for full citizenship. It is incumbent on you to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the education you impart orients your students towards democracy.

I refused the invitation to speak on the idea of the public sphere at one of your departments tomorrow, simply because I cannot bear the irony. The Habermasian public sphere is an idea that excludes too many exclusions, but to discuss even that in a place run by spineless authorities, infested by reckless, small-minded, insecure, and violent men who claim to be students, with cowardly, cunning, or helpless teachers and foolish parents watching passively, is sheer self-torture for me.

Given that your true colours are now completely revealed, I am boycotting your institution academically, until the day you abandon your passivity and complicity to render justice to the aggrieved young women. Why throw pearls before the totally unworthy?

J Devika

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Teachers and Parents of the Students of University College, Thiruvananthapuram

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    Violence from any student organisation should be condemned. It is sad that the so- called progressive unions like SFI are also turning regressive. They hould at least demarcate thenselves from self- professed manuvadi male hegemonic right hindutva unions. Instead, most of the so- called ‘ left’ are merging into ‘ right’ blurring any difference. Women rights are a major issue that differenciates Left from Right. But, mainstrem left and right seem to merge at the ‘ centre’ of male chauvinism and bigotry. All the fundemental rights and justice to women must be respected. The perpetrators of oppressive measures on women and girl students should be booked and probed

    1. Ram

      Sir, I am not sure what kind of democracy you are talking about in the context of SFI which adheres to Communist ideology. Was Soviet Union democratic and non-violent or the Eastern European countries when they were Communist, or China or Cuba or any other country that you can think about. I hope, the national socialists of Germany are not your model for democracy and non-violence. A scientific socialism cannot be based on falsehood. I appreciate the author for her article, but not your comment which seems to associate divinity with SFI.

  2. മള്ളൂരാൻ

    Davika I don’t know who you are. The SFI leadership and the Chief Minister of Kerala had already condemned the incident and also declared that the culprits will not be spared. Both sides will be examined and necessary action will be taken; I am sure about that. But some unfortunate incidents happened after and in connection with this incident raises some doubt that whether the whole incident was the part of a plot. Any way let the police inquire about that. Lets hope for the best. My question to you is mam that, had you heard of MG College; in Trivandrum? Which the RSS had converted into a nursery for their criminal activities. No girl will be spared if she did not abide to their instructions. No parents in Trivandrum want their daughter in MG College. Why people like you never raised any allegation against MG College. Are you afraid of them; or are you in support of them. Mam in campuses there will be love, politics, rivelry and even fights. Once we reach our maturity we will regret the blunders and stupidities we had done during our campus days. In my opinion what happened in the University College is highly objectionable but not rare. Don’t make it a huge mess; let the police handle it. At the same time I expect a similar write up like this one, about the atrocities in MG College also; if you have the ‘broadmind’ to do so. One sided activism is boring mam. Bye… take care.

    1. jdevika

      I’m posting this comment only because it so clearly reveals the warped mindset of diehard cpm and sfi bhakta in Kerala. The apologies offered by the sfi leadership were partial (putting the blame on so called’unruly elements’ , when they were identified quite clearly as regular sfi cadre by the aggrieved) and elitist (implying that the violent students are the low-culture riff-raff) and in any case these apologies have not ended the atrocious intimidation that the women have been subjected to. Secondly, please start thinking logically- yes, the MG College is a violent place, but not surprising to me. Both the sfi and the abvp are highly patriarchal, but while the abvp is justified by its patriarchal, misogynistic moorings in Hindutva, the sfi which supposed adheres to left politics,is expected to be more committed to gender justice! I do not need your certificate to prove my public opposition to Hindutva forces. It is only your unabashed ignorance-which you wear like a badge of honour-that is revealed by this statement. And yes, mg College is misogynistic, but by what logic does that entail the sfi to behave in the same way. And contrary to your impression, the police is totally biased against the women students! Your comment about young peoples indulgence in violence as a passing phase, it reminds me of mothers in landlord families dismissing complaints of lower caste women about the sexual assault by the scions of the landlord class as ‘ baalaleela’! Shame on you, really, for using the left as a shield for your rampant aggression towards women. Or, why not rename your party communist patriarchy of India (non-Marxist)? Would be so appropriate~

      1. മള്ളുരാൻ

        you may be a feminist. good. if you can be a diehard feminist, I can be a diehard cpim activist too. no? and that way if u get satisfaction in calling me cpim bhakt, i just dont care. so leave that part. here u said sfi did apologized. good. that’s a very good sign. isn’t it. so be patient. you allow my comment or not in this blog isn’t a big thing for me. all I want to say is police and the gov is on this issue and I am of good hope that the truth will be out. take care.

        1. jdevika

          Again, just to let readers get a taste of the ugly, violent horde that call themselves cpm supporters!

        2. Ram

          Devika needs to be supported here, and that too very strongly. Irrespective of the political ideology you subscribe to, you cannot point fingers to an opposit camp, in order to deflect the criticism of uncivilized criminal acts of your own side. Fortunately, you were only partially successful. Is it must that Devika must balance her criticism of an ugly anti-woman incidence by questioning your rivals too at the same time? Does it not reduce the effectiveness of the point she is making? Sure your rivals should be taken to task if they involve in a similar crime, but one assumes you will not let them go unpunished, as evident from your comments. You have the political might. But how one can believe you would punish your own criminals, as you seem to too enraged by Devika’s blog.

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