The National Institute of Technology Calicut (NITC) is one of the 31 institutions in the country considered to be of “national importance”.
Set up by the National Institute of Technology Act in Parliament in 2007, NITC on Friday, 24 February, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kozhikode-based Mahatma Gandhi College of Mass Communication (MAGCOM), which is backed by the RSS.
As per the college authorities, the MoU intends for the two institutes to collaborate on courses in domains like content writing, technical writing, and international media studies. The Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan also participated in the event.
However, the MoU with MAGCOM has been criticised as an ongoing move to “saffronise the institution”.
According to students and staff of NITC, who spoke with South First, the MoU was the latest among the recent decisions by institute director Prasad Krishna that favours Hindutva outfits and their ideologies.
Responding to an email by South First on Tuesday evening, Prasad Krishna said the MoU was a collective decision by the deans and HoDs committee to “align with NEP20”.
On Tuesday, 28 February, the Students Federation of India (SFI) marched from Kattangal town near NITC to the main gate of the institute to protest against the alleged saffronisation of the campus. Police personnel were deployed to counter the protest. However, it went without incidents.
“The protest was held because the management conducted an ABVP campaign under the disguise of a club activity, which later surfaced on the ABVP Kerala social media handle. Also, an MoU was signed with an RSS-affiliated media school. In spite of multiple requests from the student bodies seeking an explanation of the events, the authorities are remaining silent,” a student of NIT Calicut who doesn’t wish to be named told South First.
MAGCOM is a college affiliate to RSS mouthpiece Kesari, a Malayalam weekly magazine published from Kozhikode.
The institute started its operations with the name Kesari Media and Studies and Research Centre, which was inaugurated on 29 December 2020 by RSS chief (Sarsanghchalak) Mohan Bhagwat.
The MAGCOM website does not disclose any direct connection with RSS or the RSS mouthpiece Kesari weekly other than the fact that it functions in the same building, Kesari Bhavan.
However, if you were to click on the “donate” button on the MAGCOM website, you will be taken to the page where donation amounts can be made to “Hindustan Prakasan Trust” owners of the Kesari weekly.
Anuraj AK, the director of MAGCOM, told South First that the MoU would mutually benefit both institutions. He also said his college initially signed an MoU with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.
According to Anuraj, there is no political interference from the RSS in the functioning of the college, and it functions solely to create media professionals in the state.
However, according to critics, NIT Calicut signed the MoU with a private college that has been functioning for less than two years only because the college is owned by the RSS.
The controversial ABVP event
According to the students and staff from NITC, the MoU was merely the tip of the iceberg in relation to the institute director’s push to “saffronise the institute”.
On 8 February, a club named “Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat’ organised a programme at the Aryabhatta Hall on the campus of the institute.
Although the event was part of the ongoing campaign by the ABVP, the students’ wing of the RSS, this was concealed from the students of the institute.
The event was attended by NIT Calicut director Prasad Krishna, the ABVP state secretary and the Dean of Student Welfare of the institute.
The students said they came to know about the links with the ABVP only after the right-wing student organisation posted the pictures on Instagram, claiming it was an ABVP event.
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The Students Affairs Council (SAC) of NIT Calicut, after realising that the event was by the ABVP, wrote an email to the administration stating that it had organised the event by concealing facts about it.
“It has come to the notice of The SAC, upon the request from General Students Body, that NIT Calicut hosted an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) event named SEIL (Students Experience in Interstate Living) on 8 February, 2022, at 11.20 am at Aryabhatta hall under the banner of the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat Club. The student code of conduct of our institute strictly bans political activities within the campus premises. However, the administration has organised the event by concealing facts about the programme,” read the mail.
The students’ council also accused the club’s coordinator of removing the ABVP’s name from the event brochure sent to the NITC community.
“We are extremely sad to say that the general student body of the institute was fooled into believing that the programme did not have any political affiliation. The director of our institute and the DSW (Dean of Student Welfare) were part of the programme along with the state secretary of the ABVP on the dais. The director even mentioned the ABVP in his address,” continued the mail from the student body.
However, according to the students, the administration has not yet responded to the mail.
A student from the Mechanical Engineering Department, who did not wish to be named, said if any such thing was done by the students, the institute would have taken stringent action.
“Here, since the head of the institute was partisan to the ABVP event, there was nowhere we could complain,” the student told South First.
The student from the Mechanical Engineering Department also recalled an event held in the NITC where a Hindu saint — Swami Chidanandapuri — of Advaithashramam, who is believed to be closely associated with the RSS and someone who called for BJP rule in the state, was invited for laying the stone for the Labyrinth Garden under the Centre for Yoga and Holistic Wellness.
In March 2021, Swami Chidanandapuri in an interview with Janam TV, lauded the “development activities” done by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and called for the BJP-led NDA front’s rule in Kerala
Institute Director Prasad Krishna also participated in the event as Chidanandapuri spoke on “spirituality and wellness”. A digital copy of the programme’s brochure was accessed by South First.
“There was a pooja associated with the stone-laying ceremony. These are all unprecedented events on this campus. Instead of developing scientific temper in students in a technical institute like NITC, Hindutva ideology is slowly being imparted into students’ minds,” said the student.
The South First is in possession of a video from the day of the event.
“They have added electives like yoga and Sanskrit. Although the institute has faculty to teach Sanskrit, pro-BJP and RSS personalities are invited to the institute for conducting the lectures. There is a strong agenda from the side of the director to saffronise the institution,” alleged the student from the Mechanical Engineering Department.
Arjun, an alumnus of the NIT Calicut, speaking about the ABVP event, said: “We have always been told that NITC is an apolitical campus and does not want any kind of political activity on campus. The same administration that wants students not to engage in political activities inside the campus is vouching for a particular ideology.”
He also said such kind of political bias began in the current academic year and wasn’t there on campus when he was a student.
Suicides add to concerns
According to the students, three suicides occurred in the current academic year in the institute and the redressal mechanisms on the campus are inadequate.
The latest among the three happened on 15 February when Nitin Sharma, a native of West Bengal, died by suicide.
“The campus functioned as per its usual schedule the day after the death of Nitin. A condolence meeting was arranged four days after his demise,” a Mechanical Engineering student from NITC told South First.
In addition to the three suicides, fourth-year student Agin S Dileep, who discontinued his studies at NITC and joined Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Punjab, died by suicide there soon after.
He accused NITC Director Prasad Krishna of “emotionally manipulating” him to quit NIT Calicut.
He wrote in his suicide note: “I blame Prof Prasad Krishna for emotionally manipulating me into quitting NITC. I regret my decision so much; I’m being a burden to everyone. I’m sorry but this is it.”
The student from the Mechanical Engineering Department also said that in November last year, a protest was organised by the Left-leaning Students Federation of India (SFI) after the death of Dileep.
While the protest took place outside the campus, some SFI activists protested on campus.
The administration back then blamed the students for bringing political activists into the campus.
Increased fee irks students, staff
A member of the staff, who has been working at NITC for over a decade, told South First: “There have been many changes to the fee structure during the tenure of Prof Prasad Krishna. We actually don’t understand what the intention of the director is. The student hostels don’t have the required amenities but the fee was increased. In the guest house, it was ₹350 a day for a parent who would come to visit their child. Suddenly, without any consultation, this was increased to ₹1,500.”
He said that to avail facilities of an in-house doctor, the earlier fee was ₹40, but was drastically increased to ₹250. According to him, the administration’s mentality was that only those who were rich needed to study on campus.
“Despite the students facing such issues, the director renovated his current residence by spending nearly ₹60 lakh. He changed its name from “Director’s Residence” to “Anand Bhavan” and inscribed the images of ancient sages on the compound wall. Similarly, the registrar’s residence has also been renovated for over ₹40 lakh,” he added.
NIT Calicut Director responds to South First report
South First tried to contact the institute’s director Prof Prasad Krishna by phone but there was no response. We then sent him an email seeking his response on allegations of attempt to saffronise the institute, why an MoU was signed with MAGCOM in particular, whether ABVP event was allowed in an ‘apolitical’ campus and on the number of student suicides related to the institute.
South First received a response from him on Tuesday evening and it read thus:
“For understanding objectives behind such partnerships, please contact our Dean SW regarding the CSS of EBSB. Regarding the MoU with MAGCOM , it is a collective decision of the deans and HoDs committee to align with NEP20 and nothing to do with any political parties. For understanding the MoU text, it will be published on our website. Regarding suicide, you may enquire with the police the reasons for such unfortunate incidents which is nothing related to campus environment. We have one of the best counselling support than any of the comparable IITs or NITs . You are welcome to interact with our SGC , counsellors for more information. Engagement with NE (North Eastern States) students is a directive from the MoE and we take pride in hosting them in our campus. Only anti national elements will find politics in such engagement. All IITs and many NITs are hosting NE students and we had done earlier too. Please note that I am a spiritual aspirant and look beyond religion, language, nationality and any differences created by human beings. I’m a Heartfulness meditation trainer which has presence in 160 countries.”
*This report has been updated with Prof Prasad Krishna’s response via mail.