A 20-year-old girl student of College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram (CET)has alleged that she had to face severe discrimination on the basis of her caste in the college. Athira, 20, from Vandiperiyar of Idukki district was good at her studies in school, but her rank in entrance exams was lower as her parents were not able to send her for coaching. Born into a Oorali (a scheduled tribe) family, Athira dreamt of studying in CET and she now regrets it.
“I had dreamt that if its engineering, I would study only in CET or I will go for some degree courses. Finally, I got admission in CET under ST category reservation in 2014,” she said to The News Minute.
“The very first day when I went to the college to join, then principal (S Sheela) told me I got admission here out of luck and she warned me to be careful,” Athira says.
Athira says that the Principal’s words were a hint to the future discrimination she would face in the college.
“First day in the class I sat in the front bench, as I was short and was also excited to study in a good college like CET. But a staff advisor came to the class and asked me and my friend (who also got a seat through reservation) to move back and sit in the last bench. He also had a special word of advice for us and said that those who get admission through reservation can get failed in exams easily so we have to study well,” Athira says, recalling her initial experience.
Things got worse when Athira was given very less internal marks. “I got very less marks for my internals so I failed in some subjects in first year. I gave three subjects for revaluation and I passed in all of them. Then I had a thought that only three subjects can be given for revaluation, I didn’t even have anybody for advice. Rest of the failed subjects I passed in re-examinations,” she said.
Out of rage as she got less marks, Athira put up a post on Facebook in a CET group where teachers are also members. She wrote, “What is your opinion about reservation for students in CET?”
Following this, things turned for the worse as teachers, senior students and even her classmates began ostracising her.
Athira meeting Ramesh Chennithala
“I was left alone in the hostel as everyone criticised me, I was feeling lonely in the college. I never informed my problems at my house. Everyone called me proud and arrogant. One day, the hostel warden called my parents to the hostel and she convinced them that I had some mental disorder. Even my parents did not believe me. They took me to different doctors for treatment. I felt depressed,” she said.
Athira added that “because of them I had to drop out of my studies.”
Later with the help of a teacher in the college, Athira re-joined, but she had to face more problems.
“Everyone avoided me, nobody spoke to me. It had hurt me a lot. I was not even able to study. The staff advisor predicted that I would fail in all subjects, though I eventually failed in three. I was weak by taking a lot of medicines prescribed by doctors even if I had no sickness,” she says.
She was also thrown out of her hostel saying that students afflicted with depression were not admitted there.
Athira completed her second year in the college but torture from the staff advisor and hostel warden continued. Her parents were called again and she was sent along with them.
“Later I had to take many days leave to convince my parents that I was alright. By the time I returned, CET had ceased to be associated with Kerala University which was what my batch came under, as it had moved to Kerala Technical University. Due to shortage of attendance, I was not able to attend my classes. They asked me to continue classes from first year onwards. A lot of technical problems were there. Finally, I had to take a transfer to Karyavattom engineering college. Later, with the help of opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, I got a transfer to Idukki Engineering college, near my house,” she says.
However, Athira is disappointed that she couldn’t get a degree from CET, which is what she dreamt of originally.
The present principal of the CET college Vrinda V Nair told TNM that the college has constituted a committee to enquire about the allegations raised by Athira, which will be taken seriously.
“She was not able to continue here due to technical difficulties as the college comes under KTU. But I have forwarded her request to the university. We would try our best to admit her back, we want her here,” she said by adding, “We will sincerely enquire about her complaints. But she has not yet told me any complaints till now.”