Many activists and students condemning the arrest say the graffiti only contained extracts from famous Malayalam novels and poems.

Controversy erupts after 5 Kerala college students are arrested for graffiti on campus walls
news Controversy Wednesday, December 21, 2016 - 17:24

Controversy has erupted in Kerala after five students of Maharaja’s College Ernakulam were arrested on Tuesday over graffiti on walls in the college campus.

The five students were remanded to judicial custody on Wednesday.

The arrest was based on a complaint filed by college Principal NL Beena, alleging that the graffiti contained obscene words that injured religious sentiments.

“I had caught them red-handed. The words were in filthy language, and were against religious sentiments. So I had to give a police complaint. Later they rubbed off the obscene writings after I complained to the police,” the Principal told The News Minute.

“The arrested students were involved in destroying public property on the campus regularly. I have got many complaints that those students stay in the campus at night and draw obscene pictures and write obscene things on the walls,” she said.

She added that almost Rs 1 crore was spent to paint the college buildings, and drawing and writing on them was destructive of public property.

However, a section of students in the college have alleged that their right to freedom of expression inside the campus was being curtailed.

“This case is a warning to us that, hereafter, we will not have any freedom to express our views. There was no obscenity in those writings, they just wrote a few things were already published in the college magazine,” a student, who sought anonymity, said.

Members of the Students Federation of India (SFI) on the campus took a stand against the arrested students. But some students allege that the five arrested students were former SFI members who had quit the organisation, and this had led the student organisation to take a stand opposing them.

Furore over the issue has spread beyond the campus, setting off a political storm. Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, accused the police under the Pinarayi Vijayan government of following a fascist policy, targeting students and writers who express their views. He also issued a press statement, in which he alleged that the CM is implementing the agenda of the BJP.

Many activists, students and opposition party members who have condemned the students’ arrest claim that the words the students wrote on the campus walls were extracts from famous Malayalam novels and poems.

They point to the line one of the students wrote on a wall – "The axe of the Hindu spoke to the axe of the Muslim – the blood we drank has the same taste." This line, which is one of the lines that led to the students’ arrest, they point out, was originally written by the famous Malayalam poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar.