The depoliticisation of college campuses in Tamil Nadu has long aggrieved activists and students for its ability to stunt political consciousness and deprive students of the opportunity to realise and demand rights and address grievances. In such a milieu, disparate protests and dissent, when they sprout up, bring with them hope and a sense of mobility and dynamism. Such has been the character of the Central University of Tamil Nadu of Thiruvarur in the recent years with acts of solidarity, strength and dissent showcased in the Jallikattu protests, protest against the quality of food served in the mess in April, a rally to express dissent over competitions conducted on campus to commemorate Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Students seeking to screen Anand Patwardhan’s Ram Ke Naam through the media department were denied permission but The Hindi club screened Vivek Agnihotri’s Buddha In A Traffic Jam.
More recently, what has decisively exposed the attempts at saffronisation and crush dissent on campus according to students is the establishment of the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) wing in the university. “We know for a fact that a faculty member is involved in setting up ABVP in the campus. Often ABVP meetings are held inside the campus, in the classroom of the Hindi department,” a student told The Wire. Admitting that some students were also affiliated with the pro-communist Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the student, however, says the body had never carried out any activity inside the campus. “We formed a study circle called Freedom Speakers which had no affiliation but even then we were questioned about its purpose.” To reason, the alleged academic saffronisation of Tamil Nadu, V. Mariappan, secretary of the Tamil Nadu unit of SFI said, “finding it tough to establish itself politically in Tamil Nadu, the Hindutva forces are now trying to gain ground through educational institutions.”
These allegations of the students have been vehemently denied by the authorities and referred to as ‘hyperbole and unwarranted sensationalization’, saying that ‘it does not encourage or render any kind of support for individual political affiliations whether it is from students or faculty members’. A circular has been issued by the authorities advising students not to indulge in any ‘unauthorised activities against government policies,’ and has officially said: “The University has not set up wings for any political outfits on the campus. In fact, the university and its statutes are against it, as it could potentially affect academics.”
The age old question of can educational institutions remain apolitical seems to rear its head every once in a while.