The protest against the alleged caste discrimination at the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts seems to have taken an ugly turn with 52 first-year students finding themselves literally thrown out on the streets.
The students, including two women, arrived in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, 8 December night to attend the 27th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).
“Attending the IFFK is part of the first-year curriculum. Every year, the institute will arrange for the stay of first-year students,” Sreedev, chairperson of the Students Council, said.
The students alleged that the institute had cancelled the rooms booked for them. The Students’ Council said in a statement said that the rooms were cancelled in retaliation to their strike demanding the institute’s director Shankar Mohan’s resignation.
The students had earlier accused Mohan of discriminating against students and employees from marginalised communities.
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“Though the students tried to contact the people concerned, the director Shankar Mohan, Dean Chandramohan Nair and the demonstrator Sreedas, multiple times, their calls went unattended,” the council said.
The council later contacted the Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, Ranjith, who arranged temporary accommodation.
The students, however, had to leave the temporary accommodation on Friday, 9 December morning. They are yet to find alternative accommodation at the time of filing this report.
“The administration had reserved the rooms by paying an advance of ₹25,000. But when we went to the hotel yesterday, we found that the booking has been cancelled,” Sreedev said.
The students are now in a fix. Almost all hotels in the city are fully booked due to the IFFK. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the festival on Friday.
“Since the authority concerned (institute director) is not picking up our calls, we are trying for a meeting with the minister,” Sreedev added.
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Allegations against Shankar Mohan
The Students’ Council had earlier termed it ironic that students and staff members were facing caste discrimination in an institute named after the former Indian President, Dr KR Narayanan, himself a Dalit.
The students also said Mohan continuing in the post would demean the integrity of the institution.
Ashfaque, a Cinematography student told South First that, Sarath, a Direction and Screenwriting aspirant from a marginalised community was denied admission even as several seats remained vacant.
Later, he moved a court challenging the institute’s decision, and demanding proper conduct of the admission process and reservation policy. He received a favourable interim order.
In an earlier conversation with South First, Dhanya a sanitation worker had stated that she along with her colleagues were asked to travel to the director’s official residence 10 km from the institute at 10 am and clean the house and its premises.
She alleged that the director’s wife asked her and colleagues to clean the toilets with handheld scrubbers. They were not allowed to use a toilet brush.
“Director sir watched it all. However, he did not speak against it,” she added.
The students also met the state’s Higher Education Minister R Bindu on Tuesday, 6 December. The department had already set up a commission to study the matter and further decisions were expected to be made once the commission submitted its report.
South First’s calls to Mohan Shankar were unanswered.