The suicide of an 18-year old student from Kerala due to reported harassment by the college management not only sparked outrage among students, but has now ignited a fervent call to get politics -as of yore- back into campus life.
On Friday, Jishnu -a first-year computer science student of Nehru College- killed himself hours after he was ‘caught cheating’ during semester examination.
While the college management maintains that they had only advised Jishnu, his friends and family allege that Jishnu was subjected to mental and physical harassment by the authorities.
Student forums -cutting across political parties- came out in large numbers to register their protests.
This comes in the backdrop of private college managements adopting diktats (often stringent and bizarre) that invite severe punishment, if not kept. Student unions in the state hence believe that getting politics back onstage in campuses would ensure an apt check on such dictatorial trends.
The Nehru College of Engineering and Research in Thrissur is one of the many private colleges in Kerala that banned student politics following a High Court directive a few years ago.
While the Court in 2003 had empowered principals of private colleges to take the final call in this regard, in 2006 , it had ruled that all forms of student politics be banned in colleges, including government ones.
"We did try to begin a unit in this college a couple of months ago, but was met with resistance from not just the management, but the students as well. At the time, the students were scared to talk about harassment by the management. But after Jishnu’s death, this has changed,” asserts Vijin, state secretary of the Students Federation of India (SFI) -student body of CPI(M)- to The News Minute.
He strongly believes that such instances of harassment would have been promptly dealt with, had student political bodies been present on campus to address them. According to him, it is sheer misconception that student politics are synonymous with violence.
Its absence is what -he avers- empowers private college managements to run ‘concentration’ camps:
"Do we hear of such a crisis in any government college? That is because various student political bodies functioning on the campus are quick to register their dissent against any mismanagement by the authorities.”
He goes on to accuse the ‘private college management lobby’ of playing a crucial role in keeping them away from the campuses. JS Akhil -former Kerala Students Union (KSU) state secretary and ex-syndicate member of Kerala University- too agrees:
"Campus politics ensure that issues such as fee-structure, examination-schedule and other issues faced by students are addressed. This is exactly what these managements want to curtail. If students, with the support of political parties are allowed to voice their opinion, the authorities will then find it impossible to handle the same.”
While Vijin maintains that SFI will initiate steps to start a unit at the Nehru College, Akhil expresses restrained optimism, owing to the court order. They do however agree that Jishnu's death has led to many students and parents do a rethink on the demerits of campus politics.
"Many students now say that they need us to stay on campus. Parents too have called me up with similar requests," Vijin claims.