Outside the campus of the Upasana College of Nursing in Kerala’s Kollam district, a group of students, primarily girls have been sitting in protest since last Friday.
The students allege that the college management has been suffocating them with ridiculous rules and heavy fines.
Students say that though the rules and alleged harassment of those belonging to lower caste has been happening for few months, what ended their patience was a bizarre instruction to girl students in the hostel.
“Girls in the hostel have been instructed not to lock their doors, even while changing clothes. The principal says we are closing rooms to secretly use mobile phones or because we are homosexuals. We have been told to just keep a chair near the door, but we can’t close it,” Veena V S a fourth-year student told TNM.
The students are demanding the resignation of the college’s principal MP Jessykutty who they allege ridicules them by calling casteist slurs, interferes into their privacy, and unnecessarily fines students.
The nursing college is run by the Upasana Charitable Society run by billionaire businessman Ravi Pillai.
The students allege that the principal has made it a habit to speak rudely to students and parents and also makes filthy allegations against students.
The principal allegedly ridiculing students in the name of their caste is another issue that has been raised by the students.
“I have seen her doing this to one of my seniors who belongs to a Scheduled Caste. When we complain, she would say that the SC/ST students won’t need to face any consequence even if they protest, but students from general category would. She used to dissuade us from protesting,” said Midhun Madhu, a second-year student.
Use of mobile of phones is banned in the campus and the students are allowed to use a common phone for a few minutes during alternate days or once a week.
Many of the students allege that the principal would take out personal diaries of students and read portions from it loudly before the entire class.
Not just that, access to internet while using the library too has been reportedly blocked. “They accuse us of using internet to only watch porn,” a student said.
Student political groups are not allowed to function in the campus and the students are only allowed to join an organisation called ‘Nursing Students Association’.
“There is a fixed deposit account that we have paid for NSA, but we don’t know where that money has gone. The principal imposes fines on us, for all kinds of reasons. For taking leave, for growing hair or nails, the reasons are different each time. This protest is against the principal. The management has to replace her with somebody else,” said G Saranya, a fourth year student.
After the strike began, students who supported it were reportedly asked to vacate the hostel. In a call recorded by one of the parents, a staff member can be heard asking him to take his daughter home. The staff says that the hostel was not meant for those who protest.
The strike has been on for four days, while the college itself has been shut for a week. A meeting between the students and the management was unable to end the deadlock.
The strike and the allegations are eerily similar to the long drawn protest that the state witnessed at the Kerala Law Academy Law College campus in Thiruvananthapuram. Students had fought for the resignation of their principal Lekshmi Nair for weeks. With mainstream political parties joining the agitation, the academy was forced to sack Lekshmi Nair.
“But we doubt our strike will ever get that much attention, considering who it belongs to,” one student said.
In spite of repeated attempts, the college did not offer a reaction.