SFI state president, members booked for burning Kerala Governor Khan in effigy

The 30ft tall effigy bearing the likeness of Khan was set ablaze by SFI president K Anusree, as fellow members raised slogans.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jan 01, 2024 | 3:04 PMUpdatedJan 01, 2024 | 3:04 PM

effigy of Governor Khan

The Kerala Police have registered a case against Students’ Federation of India (SFI) state president K Anusree and eight others for indulging in a “dangerous act” of burning a huge effigy of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan resembling Fort Kochi’s Pappanji “using petrol” at Payyambalam beach in Kannur on the evening of Sunday, 31 December.

The police said on Monday that the SFI leaders had been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (punishment for rioting), and 285 (negligent conduct concerning fire or combustible).

The Kannur town police registered the case on its own after the SFI burnt the 30-foot effigy of the Governor at the beach on New Year eve, accusing him of “communalising” the state’s education sector.

Related: Cochin Carnival in Kerala won’t see ‘Governor and his hat’

Protest against Governor’s senate nominations

The effigy, bearing the likeness of Khan, was set ablaze by Anusree, as fellow members of the student organisation raised slogans.

The SFI said the protest was organised against the nomination of Hindu right-wing activists to university senates in the state by Khan in his capacity as the chancellor of universities.

There have been verbal duels between the Governor on one side and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the SFI on the other around the issue of appointments made by Khan to the senate of some universities in the state.

Khan has claimed that he is being attacked because the state government and the SFI no longer have control over the universities in the state. He cited a recent Supreme Court order quashing the reappointment of Gopinath Ravindran as the Vice-Chancellor of Kannur University to drive in his point.

The protests

The SFI has been staging widespread protests against the Governor alleging that he has been pushing the BJP-RSS nominees to the senate of various universities using his authority.

In support of the SFI protests against the Governor, Vijayan said that Khan had broken all rules on the appointment of candidates for university senates, and that he was not authorised to arbitrarily assign BJP-RSS cadres to these positions.

He claimed that when it came to discretionary power, “Governors typically choose from the panel that the universities submit”.

Khan was free to make his selections from university-approved lists, which provided him with the names of candidates to fill the positions, said Vijayan. “His actions are unilateral and arbitrary,” he declared.

Related: The claws remain out as divide deepens between Governor and government

Khan’s reaction

Khan had earlier said: “What does it matter to them whom I nominate to the Senate? There is no shame at all for the ministries or the chief minister.”

He reiterated, “The state finance minister came and asked me to nominate someone.”

He also asked: “How did the chief minister and other ministers know that the individuals I suggested weren’t on the vice-chancellor’s (VC) approved list? They recommended the list of nominees to the VC to recommend to me.”

Khan also announced that he had launched an investigation and threatened to discipline the VCs if it turned out that they were endorsing the names suggested by ministers and the chief minister.

“I can’t be forced to suggest someone by anyone. I’ll use my judgement if I have the authority,” he said. “I am not required to inform you (the media) how I used my discretion.”

As the chancellor of universities, Khan nominated four students to the University of Kerala senate. When informed that the Kerala High Court had halted the nomination process, Khan stated that he had no idea why it happened.

Additionally, he claimed that while the nominations were stayed, the high court made no remarks regarding them.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Gopinath Ravindran’s reappointment as the VC of Kannur University and to criticise the Left administration for its “unwarranted intervention” in the case, the Governor and the ruling LDF in the state have been even more at odds then before.

The Governor had previously “abdicated or surrendered” the statutory rights to reappoint the VC, according to the top court, which disapproved of Khan’s decision to reappoint Ravindran to the position.

Additionally, it had said that the chancellor had the legal authority to name and remove vice-chancellors.

“No other person, even the pro-chancellor or any superior authority, can interfere with the functioning of the statutory authority,” it had ruled.

Khan had claimed that the chief minister had put pressure on him about the case after the ruling.

(With PTI inputs)