It was with high hopes that Avala Ramu, a 25-year-old Andhra Pradesh native and an engineering graduate, came to study at the Central University of Kerala at Kasaragod district. While pursuing a post graduation in International Relations and Political Science, he was also chasing his dream of cracking the Civil Service Examination. However, a Facebook post a year ago that got him suspended for many months has now ended with his expulsion from the university. Central University of Kerala was established under a Central Act.
The university through an order on January 17, 2020, dismissed Avala Ramu stating that he had posted âanti-nationalâ comments on social media.
In February 2019, Avala Ramu was booked by Kerala police on charges of sedition over his Facebook post written in the backdrop of Pulwama terror attack which killed 42 CRPF personnel. A complaint was filed by BJP General Secretary of Bekal, N Baburaj, about a post in which Avala wrote, "Adivasi children deprived of education, as Security Forces camp in schools in Khunti". Avala had also commented that "this nation should die". In another post he said, "Who are the martyrs, 42 or the one? Stand with people". Following this, the student was booked under Section 124 A (Sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
But nearly a year after the sedition case was registered, the Kasaragod police closed the case in the first week of January. Just days after the case was closed, however, the university officials dismissed Avala.
Speaking to TNM, a police officer at the Kasaragod police station said that the case was closed before the chargesheet was filed. âThe controversial posts (except one) were actually not his own posts, he had only shared them. And the comments which were mentioned, were written much before the Pulwama incident happened and it was found there was in fact no connection between the comments and terror attack,â the official said.
The police also concluded that the post on the soldiers did not warrant a sedition case.
But this did not make the university revoke the suspension, instead they served the student with a dismissal order. In the dismissal order, the university says the student was âanti-nationalâ.
The university claims Avala Ramu was âunapologeticâ and justified his posts during the personal hearing held by the inquiry committee. âFacebook is personal media which is connecting friends and it is my private space also. They could express their opinion on Facebook,â Ramu is quoted to have said during the hearing.
It also states that the inquiry committee found that "the Facebook posts has damaged the prestige of the university before the general public."
According to the student, he wrote a Facebook post on martyrs after reading an article on Scroll. "The article had the father of the militant who carried out the attack saying he was a martyr for them. That is why I wrote a post asking people to decide. When I heard that the post became controversial, within days I explained that I have full respect for Jawans and even I want to serve this country as a civil servant. I even gave this explanation in writing to the university. But they keep saying I was not cooperating with the inquiry," says Avala. He also adds that his comment 'the nation should die', was actually about caste.
âTargeted for voicing out against administrationâ
Meanwhile Avala Ramu has alleged that the university administration has targeted him for voicing out against them in the past.
"I was one among the students who led protests against the fee hike and also called out corruption in the administration. In 2018, five of us who led one such protest were dismissed from the university hostel without even giving a reason. We had to then stay in a rented house that was three kilometres from the university and had to walk the distance everyday,â said Avala.
This is not the first time that the university administration has been accused of targeting students.
Akhil Thazhath, Avala Ramuâs classmate, was expelled from the hostel in 2018. Akhil was later dismissed by the university for writing a Facebook post which allegedly defamed the university administration. A month after his dismissal, in October 2018, Akhil tried to kill himself. However, following fierce protests from the students and due to the District Collector's intervention, the dismissal order was withdrawn and he was allowed to write the final exams.
In September 2018, Prasad Pannian, the Head of Department of English and Comparative Literature was suspended for writing a Facebook post supporting a student who was arrested by the police for breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm in the hostel.
Student plans to challenge dismissal in Kerala HC
âI do not understand why the university administration is adamant in calling me âanti-nationalâ. When I asked the officials why I was being dismissed despite police withdrawing the case, one of the officials asked me to go to court,â alleges Avala.
As a last resort, the student has planned to file a plea in the Kerala High Court challenging the dismissal order.
Though TNM had tried to contact university officials including the Registrar and Vice Chancellor, we were told that they were not available.