The Central University of Kerala in Kasargod is the most recent addition in the list of universities that are actively fighting against the suppression of dissent. Recently, an associate professor of the University was suspended for taking to social media and calling out the university’s ‘arbitrariness’ in its decision to arrest a student for a minor act. The FEDCUTA (Federation of Central University Teachers’ Associations) is vehemently opposing the suspension and has called for a revocation of the same. The timeline for the event is as follows.
A PhD student, Ganthoti Nagaraju broke the glass of a fire alarm and was immediately arrested. Nagaraju was pursuing his PhD in the Linguistics Department. According to a report, he wasn’t in the best of space because he still hadn’t received his Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship money. His financial situation was distressing and he also used the money to support his family. The Head of Department of English and Comparative Literature, Prasad Pannian took to Facebook in order to oppose the Dalit student’s arrest. He was immediately suspended from his post “as no one has the right to criticise the collective decision of the university.”
In fact, T. Akhil, a student of International Relations and Political Science, was suspended for writing a Facebook post, which allegedly contained “filthy and abusive” words against the Vice-Chancellor, and other authorities. Akhil denied these rumours and called it “political vendetta”.
Another doctoral student of Linguistics was asked to vacate his hostel room. These incidents and Pannian’s suspension sparked protests, compelling students and teachers to protest against these incidents.
According to sources, this isn’t the first time that such an incident has happened, “It is all happening to people who criticise the administration, this is the only University in Kerala under the Centre. So, they want to paint a picture that they are being opposed because they are defending the Sangh Parivar leadership. But this has nothing to do with the Sangh Parivar. Students are protesting for their freedom and other rights, just like students do in any other college, or any other University. But they want to make out that these are all terrorists, Maoists and Dalit activists against the right wing.”
A group of academics and intellectuals also took to social media, extending solidarity to Professor Pannian and condemning the student arrest.
There are two forces at work in this incident: discrimination against Dalit students and active suppression of dissent in any form. Interestingly, the Hindutva agenda also plays a big role in the politics of this particular event.
It is important to note that the Vice-Chancellor, K Jayaprasad, is the Kerala vice-president of the Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, a think tank affiliated to the Sangh Parivar. “A few people want to turn the university into another Jawaharlal Nehru University, we will not allow that. We have taken the disciplinary actions based on evidence,” he said.
It is also important to highlight that Nagaraju was a member of the Ambedkar Student’s Association, a multi-university organisation which has been noted for its left-wing and anti the Hindutva leanings.
It is apparent from this incident that the institutions at the centre are actively working towards suppressing any form of dissent and has again failed to provide a safe learning space.