A search committee will be formed to find a replacement for Shankar Mohan, who resigned as the director of KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts (KRNNIVSA), Kerala’s Minister for Higher Education R Bindu has assured the striking students of the Kottayam-based film school.
The students called off their 50-day strike after talks with the minister on Monday, 23 January.
The students were demanding the ouster of the director, who was accused of caste-based discrimination on the campus. However, they continued the strike even after director Shankar Mohan had resigned.
The minister has also promised to meet the Students’ Council’s other demands. The government would fill up the vacant seats under the reservation quota from the next academic year. The prospectus would detail the admission procedures, the students said after the discussion.
An amicable solution would be found to address the grievances of students and faculty members from the marginalised communities, and a “social justice committee” would be formed to resolve issues related to e-grant.
The meeting also agreed upon various other issues such as ensuring students’ representation in the institute’s various councils.
Sanitation staff’s issue raised at meeting
The students also raised the issue of sanitation workers, who were reportedly forced to do inhuman menial jobs at the director’s residence. The minister agreed that it was not prudent to assign the sanitation staff to the director’s residence.
The minister assured that such practices would not recur, the students said.
The government would resolve issues about the cases the students have filed in various courts and further action would be initiated after receiving the inquiry commissions’ report.
The minister reportedly told the students that the panel had submitted its report to the chief minister. She, however, did not confirm a date for releasing the report.
“The students’ strike at K R Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts is being called off today, 23 January 2022, on the fiftieth day. Higher Education Minister Dr. R Bindu has guaranteed to resolve the majority of the issues raised by the students in a written statement,” the students said in a statement after the meeting.
“The minister also assured strong involvement in the future development of the institute,” it added.
Soon after Shankar Mohan had resigned, seven other employees, including two teaching staff, also resigned from the institute.
Among those who resigned was the Dean, Chandra Mohan, said to have been close to the institute’s director.
After submitting his resignation on 18 January, Shankar Mohan, in an interview with South First, said: “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.”
However, South First has a government order dated 29 November 2021, in which the government gave Shankar Mohan an extension “till a new director is appointed”. The order did not specify any date on which his tenure would end.
The Students’ Council chairperson Sreedev Suprakash told South First that as Gopalakrishnan had supported the director and accused the students of spreading “blatant lies”, they would not associate with the filmmaker in KRNNIVSA’s official events.
Secretariat march on R-Day
Meanwhile, several social and political organisations and members of civil society would take out a march to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Republic Day. An organisation, FADO (Forum Against Discrimination and Oppression), has organised the march.
In a statement, FADO accused the government of protecting Mohan by allowing him to resign without initiating any criminal proceedings against him over the allegations of caste discrimination.
The organisation demanded an investigation against the institute’s chairman, Gopalakrishnan, besides setting up of a commission to probe reservation “scams” in higher education institutions.
It also stated that the inquiry commission reports should be made public without delay. Economist and former professor of TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) Prof M Kunhaman would inaugurate the march.