There seems to be no end to the controversies surrounding the Kottayam-based KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Sciences and Arts (KRNNIVSA).
The students have come out in support of the sanitation staff after filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan made a comment that sparked a debate in Kerala.
Earlier, the staff complained that they were made to work at the residence of the institute’s director, Shankar Mohan. They complained of inhuman behaviour at his residence — 10 km from the institute — saying they were forced to scrub toilets.
The staff members, mostly women, also have the support of students, who have been demanding the removal of Mohan. They accused him of discriminating against students based on their caste.
“They are now stars on TV. They deck up in their fineries and go to the media. They look as if they are part of WCC (Women in Cinema Collective),” Gopalakrishnan, also the chairman of KRNNIVSA, told a Malayalam television channel.
He added that the women had been coached to give “interviews regularly”.
Expressing solidarity with the sanitation staff, the students came out against Gopalakrishnan. “It is pathetic that someone like Adoor Gopalakrishnan making such comments,” Sreedev Suprakash, chairperson of the Students’ Council, told South First.
“When Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar wore a blazer, people initially mocked him. Only people with a feudal mindset could make such statements in this era,” he added.
The students posed for pictures with the sanitation staff and posted their photographs on social media. “Our chechis (elder sisters) will surely come well dressed,” their post responded to Gopalakrishnan on Tuesday, 4 January.
In an earlier interview with South First, Gopalakrishnan defended director Mohan saying that the students’ allegations were “blatantly lies”.
The filmmaker also said that Mohan, an experienced and well-mannered person from a “noble family”, has been trying to revive and develop the institute and instill discipline in the students.
After the interview was published, the students wrote an open letter, explaining their standpoint.
Shankar Mohan breaks silence
South First made several attempts in vain to contact Mohan during the past more than three weeks.
However, he broke his silence ever since the students’ strike that began on 5 December, when he spoke to a Malayalam television channel.
Denying the allegations, he said that a dismissed security guard was instigating the students and staff members. The former security guard, Mohan claimed, have been supplying alcohol to the students.
“After taking charge as the director, I inspected the hostel and its premises since it is a residential campus. I found at least 16-17 sacks of empty alcohol bottles from there. On probing, I understood that a security guard was supplying these bottles to the students,” he told the channel.
Mohan alleged that the security guard was acting against him to exact revenge.
He also alleged that one of the initial videos of the sanitation staff complaining about caste-based discrimination was shot at the guard’s residence.
Mohan, who was appointed for two years on 28 November 2019, was given a conditional extension after his term ended in November 2021.
KRNNVISA blames LBS Centre
Meanwhile, Gopalakrishnan and Mohan blamed the Thiruvananthapuram-based LBS Centre for Science and Technology for violating the reservation norms for admission to the institute.
LBS Centre, an organisation under the Kerala government, is responsible for holding entrance tests. South First earlier reported that the LBS Centre had objected to the cut-off list prepared by the institute.
In 2021, the institute held an entrance examination. However, the admission process was not completed that year. The next year, yet another entrance test was conducted, in which 265 students were selected and 133 students were invited for an interview and the course programme.
However, the institute administration requested the LBS Centre to create a list of students for admission with new cut-off marks.
The LBS Centre objected and wrote to the institute director that its representative “visited your institute and handed over an allotment list” on 5 July, the same day on which KRNNIVSA allegedly asked LBS “to prepare a new list with certain cut-off marks”.
The LBS representative reportedly objected to the new cut-off marks, since it was not included in the prospectus and it could lead to complaints.
On 2 August, the institute instructed the LBS Centre in a letter to prepare a new list based on the recommendations of its “Academic Committee”.
This, the students said, violated all the reservation norms, which led to the denial of admission to several students from marginalised communities.
South First’s calls to LBS Centre Director Abdul Rahiman went unattended.
Two enquiry commissions
So far, the government has set up two enquiry commissions to investigate the allegations against the film institute.
On Tuesday, yet another enquiry commission visited the film institute and collected the evidence.
The later commission was set up after direction from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Initially, an enquiry commission visited the campus and collected evidence from students, teaching and non-teaching staff.