The Student Federation of India (SFI) Ernakulam district unit had on Saturday expelled three of its student leaders, Vishnu Suresh, K.F. Afridi and Prajeeth K. Babu.
The reason for expulsion is rather interesting. The student leaders led a strike at Maharaja’s College, Kochi, on January 19th, burning the college principal’s chair. Usually those who lead such agitations get wide recognition in the organization. Conversely, they have been expelled from the outfit. The criticisms from the social media and within the society for torching the principal’s chair might be the reason which prompted the organization to take such a move. Add to that the reluctance of the college authorities to initiate an action against the students expelled by the organization. Setting fire to the principal’s chair at the main entrance of the college is a surely a shameful way of protest.
The college has been witnessing repeated protests by the students against the principal for the past few weeks. The agitating students alleged that the principal was engaged in ‘moral policing’ activities on the campus passing derogatory remarks about the female students. Following the protests, the principal had apologised by signing in a paper, the video of which was uploaded on social media by the students. Despite that, the SFI going ahead with such a move is mysterious.
There are several aspects related to the move in which the SFI, being the largest student organisation of Kerala, should hold introspection. The protests targeting the principal were initiated alleging her moral policing activities. SFI members had on January 9th attacked Vivek Kumaran, a Dalit student activist of the Ambedkar Student Movement at the Mahatma Gandhi University. When the incident led to harsh criticisms by the Dalit organisations and on the social media, the responsible SFI leaders alleged that Vivek was involved in moral policing activities. That is, the matter here is the organisation’s stance on the concept of morality. While they talk of discrimination against the Dalits on one hand, the reality is that they haven’t yet learnt to amicably coexist with the Dalit minority outfits.
It was in Maharaja’s college itself where Inquilab Students Movement (ISM) activist Fuad was attacked for conducting a function on January 17th commemorating the death of Rohith Vemula. The organisation should be more vigilant in doing proper homework in the Dalit-minority issues and morality matters as well as in taking appropriate steps.
On one side, there are anti-student activities and the open loot of the self-financing colleges led by the business magnets, while on the other side, there exist organisational fascism and anti-democratic activities in the government and aided institutions. It’s pathetic that our institutions, regardless of being government or private, are losing their charm. Higher educational institutions would be able to accomplish their goals only if high academic standards, open democratic environment, freedom for outfits and healthy student-teacher relations go hand in hand. A combined effort should be taken in that regard. The decision of the SFI in expelling the student agitators who burnt the college principal’s chair should therefore be welcomed. At the same time, the hesitancy of the college authorities in taking action against the students is an evidence of their fear of these organised outfits. Student organisations are supposed to boost the growth and development of students and act as a catalyst for social change. They shouldn’t be degraded into mafia gangs that hold college authorities ‘captive’ and bargain.