Akhil Thazhathu, a postgraduate student of the Central University Kasargod, has been dismissed for allegedly taking part in protests against the unilateral moves of the authorities and the fascist environment prevailing in the campus. He was also pulled up for reportedly using abusive language against the Vice Chancellor in a Facebook post. Akhil has now been banned from even entering the campus.
The 22-year-old is a postgraduate student of International Relations. Speaking to TNM, he said that though the authorities, namely the Vice Chancellor G Gopakumar and Pro Vice-Chancellor K Jayaprasad, claimed that he was dismissed based on an enquiry report, he was not given a copy of the report despite asking for it.
"It all began with the authoritative attitude of the administration. The incumbent pro vice-chancellor Jayaprasad was formerly the financial officer. He would use money from the ‚Äėnon-plan funds‚Äô, which did not require a proper account for all important expenditures, such as building hostels. The money from plan funds, on the other hand, has to be accounted for with extreme accuracy. Even the salary for outsourced staff was given from the non-plan funds,‚ÄĚ says Akhil.
Akhil's dismissal is the latest incident of the alleged suppression of the students‚Äô voices and rights on the campus, which is reportedly known for denying students any liberty.
In fact, in August, Prasad Pannian, a professor at the university, was suspended from the post of Head of Department of English and Comparative Literature on Friday, allegedly for putting a Facebook post in support of a student who was arrested. He posted a status on August 11, showing his support for research scholar Ganthoti Nagaraju, who was arrested for allegedly breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm in the hostel.
Students protest for hostel facilities
In July 2018, the students of the university staged the ‚ÄėStudent Refugee Movement,‚Äô a protest demanding adequate hostel facilities. Following the protest, the university had suspended classes indefinitely.
The vice-chancellor was allegedly hesitant to take a stand at the time as well, citing that he was in Delhi and could not take a decision soon.
‚ÄúIn February, one of my female batchmates was waiting outside the hostel for a bus to go home. She had signed out of the hostel stating the reason, but a guard questioned her for sitting outside and argued that she was not allowed to sit there at that time. When she returned from home, she was not permitted to enter the hostel,‚ÄĚ Akhil recollects an incident.
‚ÄúWithout any prior intimation, she was denied entry into the hostel and even suspended from the campus. She then slept outside the stage office on the campus. An administrative staff clicked a photo of her sleeping. She, obviously, questioned the staff. However, he then got admitted in a hospital saying that he was beaten up by the student, who was later dismissed. This incident gave the authorities more confidence to move ahead with anti-student actions,‚ÄĚ he states.
In February, the university dismissed cooking staff of the hostels leading to another protest by the students, with some even going on a hunger strike for five days.
"It was a protest by the student community as a whole and not backed by any particular political parties. The justification given by the university was that the cooking staff was sacked as per UGC regulations to fire excess outsourced staff. They also asked us to opt for catering services or to pay for the cooks from our own pockets. Later, on filing an RTI, we found out that as per UGC regulations, the number of outsourced staff should be 100, but in the university, the number was 196. The administrative staff and the guards were in excess and instead of sacking the excess staff, the university dismissed the cooks, putting the burden of paying their salary on us students," he says.
According to Akhil, the administrative staff should not be outsourced. "The appointment of administrative staff was political, mostly from BJP and RSS background, ignoring their educational qualifications," he claims.
After the commencing of this academic year, some of the students who were part of such protests were suspended. Akhil was suspended on June 25 under the claim that he had put up posts against the campus on Facebook, which, he says, he is not aware of.
On July 22 two teachers were assigned to run an enquire on Akhil. "I questioned this as there was no proof against me. On August 16, I was asked to write an apology letter, for which, I was not ready as I had already given a letter seeking an apology for any misunderstanding. The university had even filed a complaint against me at the Kasargod police station, stating that I had created a problem in the campus after consuming ganja. However, they were not able to take it forward as there was no truth in the complaint," he says.
While the VC declined to respond to the allegations, the University Registrar Radhakrishnan Nair said that Akhil was dismissed because of a Facebook post, in which he reportedly used abusive language against the VC and other top authorities of the University.
Speaking to TNM, he says, "He was suspended first, but he was not ready to submit an unconditional apology. Hence, he was dismissed. The letter that Akhil had submitted did not have any unconditional apology; he only mentioned 'if he had offended someone'. How can he be given apology after using such language against authorities such the VC."
Since the matter had escalated, the university authorities convened a meeting with Kasargod MP P Karunakaran, "after which it was decided that Akhil would be taken back only if he would give an unconditional apology," added the Registrar.