LDF takes out massive rally to Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram; urges Governor to end animosity toward elected government

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury terms the march the beginning of a nationwide move to protest higher education from communal forces.

ByK A Shaji

Published Nov 15, 2022 | 4:51 PM Updated Nov 15, 2022 | 5:05 PM

Sitaram Yechury inaugurating Raj Bhavan march in Thiruvananthapuram

Normal life was affected for several hours in Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, 15 November, when thousands of workers of the ruling LDF took out a massive rally to the Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s office-cum-residence.

The rally, organised under the aegis of the recently formed Higher Education Protection Committee, was to protest against Governor Arif Mohammad Khan’s interference in the higher education sector. Former Kerala University vice-chancellor Dr B Iqbal is the convener of the organisation.

The LDF and the Governor have been locked in a bitter battle over the appointment of vice-chancellors in state-run universities.

Though the Governor was away in Delhi, the LDF workers surrounded the gates from early morning to noon. They raised slogans against what they termed as the Governor’s attempts to saffronise the higher education sector. Khan would return to the state on 20 November.

Normal life came to a standstill for several hours in the LDF’s show of strength. All major roads were affected. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues, however, stayed away from the protest.

Protest to mobilise public opinion

Talking to the media persons on the sidelines of the rally, CPI(M) politburo member MA Baby said the protest was meant to mount public opinion against the Governor, who has been acting as a tool of the BJP-RSS dispensation that rules at the Centre.

protest

A view of the protest. Photo: South First

He also said the LDF was not demanding the Centre to recall the Governor.

“The government has initiated efforts to remove him from the responsibility of chancellor of state universities in Kerala. We hope the mounting protests will prompt the Governor to correct himself. We are not demanding his removal from the position,” said Baby.

Meanwhile, speaking to media persons in New Delhi, Governor Khan said he welcomed any democratic kind of protests and was holding nothing against the ruling party launching such an agitation.

“I will not be pressured under any circumstances. Nobody can violate the limits set for them. Court orders must be honoured,” he said.

In his introductory speech, Iqbal said the massive protest was due to the Governor’s recent interferences in the functioning of universities, which have fully functional autonomy. He also said the protest had excluded those holding constitutional positions.

Governor pushing BJP-RSS agenda

Inaugurating the protest, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury accused the Governor of attempting to fulfil the agenda of the BJP-RSS to saffronise educational institutions in the state.

Terming the protest the beginning of a nationwide movement to protect institutions of higher learning from saffronisation, Yechury urged all non-BJP state governments across the country to stand with Kerala in its fight.

Shiva

Yechury and DMK’s Tiruchi Shiva at the protest. (South First)

“There is nothing personnel in this fight. The Governor, who has to act as per the elected state government’s directions, is now acting on his own accord. For us, it is a policy issue”, Yechury said.

Terming the situation unbecoming of a healthy democracy, the CPI(M) general secretary said the Governor’s interventions were not purely involving procedural matters.

“His controversial actions involve policy matters. The struggle the LDF is launching today is not a personal one, but one concerning policy matters. There is nothing personal against the Governor. I have known the Governor for more than three decades. The matter is serious since it concerns the country’s higher education sector”, he further said.

Spat over universities not new

Yechury said governor-government conflicts over university matters were not new. “It has happened in states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Telangana and Maharashtra. The role of the Governor as a constitutional position is now being reduced to that of an office advancing the political objectives of the central government and the ruling BJP”, Yechury said, adding this was not the Governor’s role mandated in the constitution.

The CPI(M) leader added that the issue also involved centre-state relations. “Education is in the concurrent list of the constitution. The state government has an equal right to form educational policies. But now, states are being bypassed, and the Centre is taking unilateral decisions”, he further stated.

“The New Education Policy is an example. It was launched during the Covid-19 pandemic and unilaterally imposed. Controlling education is a crucial aspect of the political design of the BJP and the RSS to convert secular democratic India into a fascist Hindutva Rashtra of their liking”, he added.

Yechury said that the BJP-RSS combine wanted total control over the youths’ education and consciousness.

DMK’s Rajya sabha member Tiruchi Siva was the star of attraction at the protest. He launched a broadside at the Governor and his “dictatorial” functioning.

CPI(M) state secretary MV Govindan, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran, LDF leaders Mathew T Thomas, PC Chacko, Kadannappally Ramachandran, Jose K Mani and Pannyan Raveendran, were among those leaders who addressed the protestors.

Earlier, the Kerala High Court rejected a petition filed by BJP state president K Surendran, who wanted stern action against state government employees participating in the protest. The court said it had no mechanism to identify such people and to initiate action against them.

The Congress-led opposition UDF, meanwhile, said the protest reflected the bonhomie between the Governor and the ruling party.

“They organised the protest when the Governor was away. But the residents of the capital city suffered.  The Governor and the government are creating anarchy in the state,” opposition leader V D Satheesan said.