We, the undersigned, wish to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent violent events at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, which seem to indicate that the rights of college students, especially women students, are seriously compromised in this venerable institution. As women researchers, academics and teachers of Malayali origin, we are deeply disappointed by the responses of the police, the concerned college authorities, and the teachers there.
Irrespective of what happened on 9 February, even if the students and their friend who are being demonized by members and supporters of the leading students’ organization in social media and outside were at fault, there were lawful ways of dealing with the incident. The fact that alleged supporters of the SFI took the law into their hands and then went on to unleash a veritable blitzkrieg of propaganda against these students is utterly regrettable, as also the shocking laxity of the police in this regard. Also, as teachers ourselves, we cannot but express our alarm at the apparent passivity of the teachers in this institution in this issue. Under the Indian Constitution, higher education has necessarily to be training for full and equal citizenship, and teachers, more than anyone else, are bound to uphold this inside and outside the classroom.
Kerala is often regarded as a state where women have achieved much, going by the indicators of social development, but we have also become painfully aware of the intense hostility, even among progressive groups, to women’s mobility, freedom of speech, and indeed, towards their right to be full citizens. We believe that it is the duty of a progressive government, led by Left parties, and of college teachers, who cannot slip away from the commitment to Indian democracy, to work towards ameliorating women’s unfreedoms. This is indeed a responsibility that cannot be abandoned without sacrificing the claim to be on the political left altogether.
The events of 9 February 2017 involving organized violence by a section of students against two women students and a male visitor invited by them to the campus are still shrouded under a veritable series of gossip, hearsay, and vicious rumours, all directed against these students. The police complaint filed by these students, which is indeed quite serious (190/2017, Cantonment Police Station, Thiruvananthapuram City) seems to be languishing, while there are reports that the counter-complaint filed by certain supporters of the SFI, well-after the aggrieved students had approached the police, are being taken up in an excessively vengeful manner. The aggrieved students complain of being stalked; their mothers were insulted on campus; and the assault on them by supporters of the SFI continues to be relentless. Public apologies by the SFI leadership and CPM leaders are welcome; however, they remain meaningless unless the harassment continues online and offline.
Needless to say, students have been beacons of hope in our struggles to protect Indian democracy, and the active role that women students have played in combating anti-democratic forces in recent times can hardly be denied. We appeal to the Communist-led Government of Kerala, and the Hon. Education Minister of Kerala, Prof. C Raveendranath , to urgently intervene in a positive manner in this issue to ensure that the rights of the women students and their guest are fully protected, and that the police investigation into this incident proceeds in a swift, unbiased manner. We request you to undertake immediate measures to democratize the atmosphere in college campuses in Kerala, so that the education imparted there enables all students to emerge as confident, responsible citizens committed to democracy and openness. We appeal to the teachers of the University College to stand openly by the values of the Indian Constitution, and the rights of women students in this decisive moment.
Uma Chakravarti, Delhi University.
Mary E John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi.
G Arunima, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Nivedita Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Janaki Nair, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Janaki Abraham, Department of Sociology, New Delhi.
Ritty Lukose, New York University.
Shoba Arun, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Bindu M Menon, Lady Shree Ram College, Delhi University
Meena Gopal, TISS, Mumbai
Binitha V Thampi, IIT Madras, Chennai
Navaneetha M, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.
Leena Abraham, TISS, Mumbai
Praveena Kodoth, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.
Bindhulakshmi P, TISS, Mumbai.
Sharmila Sreekumar, IIT Povai, Mumbai.
Bindu K C, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
9 thoughts on “An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram”
All students’ right to quality education need to be ensured. Teachers are more responsible for the deteriorated academic atmosphere of that campus. They take advantage of the compulsory strikes etc. , by which plenty of academic hours are lost. They also the limit quantity as well as quality of lectures, in order to reduce ‘work load’. Briilliant students are denied exposure to outer academic world and to future opportunities and their valuable campus life is also lost in between struggles to get the degree completed amidst the circumstances. Individual efforts are neither encouraged nor appreciated but individual achievements are glorified and are added to the institute’s credit.
You may read my brief write-up in Malayalam here
Let the Kerala ‘ communist parties ‘ – led government institute an enquiry into the incidents and prove that it really cares for emancipation of women, right to quality education of women and safety and security of women in schools, colleges and public places. ..! Let the women students grievances be heard and resolved punishing the guilty regardless of union affiliations and proximity to any political party ..!
Harassments and human rights violation of women has always been justified, ignored or manupulated sometimes in the name of caste, community or race discrimination and even women are considered as a sex worker if they are very open in their attitude (though men do not have any right to harass even a sex worker). Racism, caste and community discrimination, relating feminism to men hatred all these aspects are giving privilege to men. Violence by men is very easily justified. So, even being educated how far we even women are out of creating patriarchal space for other women? By internalising violence and manipulating harassments in some or the other way is maintaining patriarchy and maintaining women’s vulnerability. In some or the other way violators or the perpetrators are privileged. Is Women’s harassment nothing in comparison to caste, class, race, religion discrimination? This simply means men have license to violate n harass women because they have tool of race, religion, caste, class discrimination which serves as an escape from punishment even if a very serious crime is committed by them.
And same is the case in terms of education. It is women who will have to compromise their education when there is the need to make more powerful tool of empowerment for women. Even there is a need to improve education and education system so that both men and women get maximum benefit from it. Benefit in the form of making both women and men capable of using their quality education in practice. Using their education to create equal space for women in practice.
Dear Devika madam, looking forward to an article by you or someone knowledgeable about the subject on how Jishnu Prannoy’s mother, Mahija, was ill-treated by the police and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently.
I have written what I thought on my Facebook page, Sreejith. Hope to write at some more detail later.