We heard the outcry, "If you stand against us, we will make you the mother of a fatherless child" not from North Indian caste strongholds, but from within a university campus in 'progressive' Kerala. Those who made that rape threat claim themselves to be protectors of women. 'Freedom, democracy, socialism' is painted on the flags they wield. Madhyamam Correspondent SHEEBA SHANMUKHAM spoke to AISF State Joint Secretary Adv. NIMISHA RAJU, who faced assault, rape threats and casteist abuse, reveals about the turmoil and terror she faced during the MG University Senate elections.
What happened on the campus that day?
We were on campus after the MG University Senate election. A group of SFI activists came and asked, "Aren't you Sahad?" and slapped AISF activist AA Sahad. The attack against me happened when I was trying to rescue Sahad. The attack was led by those who walked together with me in several protests and other classmates. They couldn't take that I, a woman, said that it is not right to attack a person as a mob. Arsho, who studied with me at Ernakulam law college, was the one who threatened to make me a fatherless child or, rather, rape me. The mental toll of having to listen to a mob of violent men swear at you in public is beyond words. Those were words that can never be expected from a leftist activist and classmate. When comrades took me to the hospital, I was in pain in the car, realising the horror of those words.
Sahad is an activist I took by the hand and brought to the party. He joined the constituency committee when I was in charge of it. My fear was if something happened to him. The assault on him was that inhuman. In the video viral online, a Secretariat member from Idukki, Shiyas, is kicking Sahad. It was an emotional moment for me. My whole attention was centred there. So I wasn't able to realise what they said at that moment. Several now point out that I didn't pinpoint that threat then. I heard it with my own ears. How can they claim they have not said it? Arsho and Arun abused us. Arsho told me to move away referring to my caste. They used slurs. It was verbal rape. How can they unleash such anti-women statements? Maybe it's because I am dark. These are not SFI cadres; no communist SFI comrade can do this. I do not even want to recollect what I heard that day. I know several in the group, including Amal and Deepak.
I am an active AISF cadre from 2013. I have shared different stages and events with them. Before the fight, I had talked to Amal. Because they are all friends; these are people I trusted to be there if ever I need help. SFI cadres and their justifiers are now celebrating the WhatsApp chat with comrade Sharath who says that these things were 'said in the spur of the moment' on social media. When a friend justified SFI and its assault, Sharath tired and mockingly said, "Fine, all you say is right". They have screenshotted this selected portion and are circulating it. I heard the threats and the slurs. Who can refute my experience?
Party is with us
Nobody has called from CPM or DYFI or SFI. I have many friends from SFI. Nobody called. My party is with me. Comrade Kanam Rajendran called when he heard of the occurrence. Annie Raja, MS Tara, Kamala Sadanandan also called and passed me strength.
Is this an isolated occurrence?
We face similar experiences across campuses and universities in Kerala. Not just us but also KSU and other student organisations. SFI is choosing to threaten anyone who raises a counter-voice. We need to make them realise that this is not democracy. They must realise that this is not socialism; they must rectify their mistakes. If we do not understand that this is not the freedom we must raise our voice for, it might contribute to the apoliticisation of campuses.
AISF state council member Shajo alone contested to the senate this year. It is because of SFI domination that there was no one to contest. In Kerala, where student politics is extremely active, if SFI is getting elected with a walkover and no opposition, one must understand that it is not due to their acceptance but because they have overstepped democracy that much. MG Senate election is rarely announced publicly even. Whenever a notification is issued, our candidates contest it. Often notification is not put out because the syndicate aides the SFI. Last time, the election was conducted without informing anyone. This overturning of process is done by exploiting positions of power.
They are creating fear
Will any woman come forward if they face such an experience publicly? No. They are creating that fear. Several women with me got scared. That is what the assaulters wanted also. I am politically active in and around my place and campus. SFI comrades were my friends and brothers. They have got me food during election times. They have dropped me home. It is on the MG campus that I realised there are SFI cadres unlike that.
Those who insulted me must be punishedThose who insulted me must be punished as a precedence for future occurrences. Not just against me, such assault must not happen against any woman. It is not leftist culture. It is the Sangh Parivar and their followers who often raise such rape threats. Activists who voice against the Sangh Parivar and their fascism, women leaders, activists, journalists, dalit-minority community women are often the victims of such verbal rape. It is clear that there are those with RSS mentality within the SFI. The organisation must identify them and remove them. The communist ideals put forth by SFI and AISF must serve as the guiding strength for students in future. It is mandatory that they rectify their mistakes for that.Nimisha Raju is an LLM student at MG University's School of Legal Thought. She is the daughter of Retd police officer NK Raju and Shakuntala from Vaikom and resides in North Paravoor with her husband Divin K Dinakaran who is also the Ernakulam District secretary of AIYF.