A section of students of the National Institute of Calicut (NITC) has begun a hunger strike demanding an apology from the college authorities for organising an ABVP event in the guise of a club activity on the campus.
The students have been protesting against the alleged attempt to saffronise the campus ever since the institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the RSS-backed Mahatma Gandhi College of Mass Communication (MAGCOM) in Kozhikode, Kerala.
The MoU aimed at the collaboration of the two institutes to offer courses on content writing, technical writing, and international media studies.
The students and staff of NITC said the MoU was the latest among the recent decisions by institute director Prasad Krishna, favouring Hindutva outfits and their ideologies.
At 6 pm on Thursday, 2 March, the students held a protest at the administrative block of the institute against the saffronisation of their campus.
Although the representatives of the Students Action Council (SAC) met with the dean of students’ welfare for a dialogue, a consensus evaded the meeting, prompting some students to call for a hunger strike until the institute issues an official apology.
Demand for apology
The students have decided to continue the hunger strike until the administration issues an apology.
“The dean said that the order to welcome the students came from the MoE (Union Ministry of Education) and they couldn’t go against the order,” an Instagram post on Students Commune said.
“He admitted that they purposefully hid the name of ABVP because they did not want to be associated with the party,” it said.
The post further lamented that the students were feeling “highly misguided” for attending a politically-inclined event.
The statement also demanded to see the order sent by the Ministry of Education regarding hosting the ABVP event. It also demanded ABVP Kerala take down the post published on its official Instagram handle.
Administration threatens action
The institute administration reacted to student protests, threatening to initiate action against them.
The students received a mail from the institute’s Registrar Shamsundara MS, a copy of which is with South First. The internal communication threatened action against those students who are planning to hold protests on campus.
“Dear Students, It has been reported that some of the students are planning for a march or protest or protest congregation inside the campus today and in the coming days. It may be noted that protest or march or protest congregations or related activities inside the campus are illegal, an act of indiscipline and against the general conduct rules of the Institute,” the mail read.
It further said that strict disciplinary action would be initiated against those who indulge in “illegal activity” such as gathering together and protesting inside the campus premises.
Students recall P Rajan
The latest development also witnessed the students recalling P Rajan, who was allegedly tortured to death in police custody during the Emergency. His 47th death anniversary, incidentally, fell on 1 March.
“In 1976, a young man stood up for the rights of his countrymen. He voiced his protest through his art. Enraged by the young man’s confidence, people in power killed him,” the Students Commune said in its Instagram post.
“Forty-three years later, on the campus where he enacted his street play and sang songs, the rights of the students are being questioned. We need the administration to speak up. It’s Rajan’s campus, it’s our campus. If not now, then when shall we be united?…” the post asked.
Rajan, a student of Regional Engineering College, Kozhikode, now the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, was tortured by the Kerala police during the Emergency.
The alleged murder of Rajan by the Kerala Police after branding him a Naxalite despite insufficient evidence had stirred a political controversy in Kerala and remains a significant event in the state’s political history.
The murder was committed when K Karunakaran was the home minister in the C Achutha Menon-led government.
In the elections that followed in 1977, Karunakaran became the chief minister of the state but had to resign following adverse remarks by the Kerala High Court. AK Antony replaced him as the youngest chief minister of Kerala.
The students have placed an image of Rajan at the protest venue.