Shankar Mohan, the director of the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Sciences and Arts (KRNNIVSA) in the Kottayam district of Kerala, resigned on Saturday, 21 January.
The resignation came on the 47th day of the ongoing student agitation on the campus, with the protesters demanding his ouster.
The students of the film institute have been on strike since 5 December, 2022, accusing Mohan of caste-based discrimination against them and the sanitation staff.
Mohan, in a telephonic conversation with South First, confirmed his resignation and said he had completed his three-year term as a full-time director and performed his duties well at the institute.
He said he had tendered his resignation to the institute’s chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan three days ago.
“I have performed my duties well at the institute at a level where it would be competing with the top institutes in the country. My three-year tenure is over. I gave my resignation to the chairman three days ago, and he must have submitted it today (Saturday) to the government,” said Mohan.
However, South First is in possession of a Government Order issued on 29 November, 2021, in which the government gave Mohan an extension “till a new director is appointed”.
The order did not specify any date on which his tenure would end.
Strike will continue: Student council
The students’ council chairperson Sreedev Suprakash, speaking to South First, refuted the claim that Mohan was resigning due to the end of his tenure at KRNNIVSA.
Suprakash said the union had put forth many other demands to the government and the institute’s administration regarding issues of the students, and had not decided on calling off the strike.
He also said a final decision on the strike would be taken after looking at the findings of the two enquiry commissions that were investigating the allegations of the students and the employees of the film institute.
Refuting the charges
Asked about allegations of caste discrimination, Mohan said: “There was no caste discrimination. I am leaving with a clear conscience.”
He added: “As an institute, we fully believe in the Indian Constitution as well as the orders issued by the Central and state governments.”
The LBS Centre for Science and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram, an organisation under the Kerala government, is responsible for holding entrance tests to the film Institute based in Kottayam.
When South First posed him a question regarding an LBS Centre letter that raised objections to the Institute’s cut-off marks that were contrary to the prospectus of the institute, Mohan said he did not know about the communication, and that the admission process happened in May-June.
“If you have any evidence of us getting a letter in May or June, I will accept it, but the letter you are referring to is dated September. Anybody can make allegations, but that doesn’t prove anything. If there would have been anything (letter) that should have been sent in May-June,” he said.
When South First asked him whether the administration found it unusual that certain departments only had students from the general category, Mohan responded: “These things can happen. We are not experts as far as reservation is concerned. Therefore, we have got an outside agency to handle these things, and we pay a good amount (for getting the work done). They are not a new agency; they have been handling the admissions for the last four-five years.”
He also said if there were any issues with the processes, the government and the courts could handle the matter and he didn’t see any need for the students to disrupt their studies.
“We are a democratic country, and so there are various systems for redressal. You can point it out; that is your right. You point it out and you go back to your studies, and the rest remains with the government and the courts. You can’t strike on that account,” he said.
“Today is the 48th or 49th day they are striking. They already lost two years due to the pandemic, and now they will be losing more days. Then they are bringing caste issues; caste issues are something that is easily ‘marketable’,” he added.
‘Allegations are stage-managed’
Regarding the allegations by the sanitation workers, he said they were stage-managed by people he “threw out of the institute”.
Mohan said he had given all the information to the government and it was up to it to find out.
In an earlier interview with a Malayalam news channel, Mohan had alleged that a security guard who was dismissed from service by the institute administration after he was found guilty of procuring alcohol for the students was the person instigating the sanitation workers to make allegations against him.
When South First asked him whether he had any regrets regarding his tenure at KRNNIVSA, he said: “I have no regrets. I have accomplished what I had to accomplish, and I am going satisfied.”
‘Adoor Gopalakrishnan stood with the truth’
Earlier, in an exclusive interview with South First, the institute’s chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan said the allegations against the institute administration by the students of KRNNIVSA were “blatant lies”.
He defended the director, stating that he intended to bring “discipline” to the institute.
Asked about the support, Mohan said: “Adoor Gopalakrishnan has not been defending any individual but the truth. Period.”