The protest was withdrawn on Monday after a meeting with Higher Education Minister R Bindu, who assured the students that all of their demands will be taken care of.

KRNNIVSA students with Aashiq Abu facebookKRNNIVSA students with Aashiq Abu, film maker
news Protest Monday, January 23, 2023 - 19:00

Nearly 50 days after they launched a protest alleging caste discrimination at the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts (KRNNIVSA), the students of the institute seem to have arrived at a resolution with the Kerala government. The protest — which commenced on December 5 last year — was withdrawn on Monday, January 23, after a meeting with Higher Education Minister R Bindu, who assured the students that all of their demands will be taken care of. “The resignation of the institute’s director was a major demand raised by the students. A new director will be appointed soon, and the institute’s vacant reserved seats for students will also be filled,” said the minister.

In a press release later, Bindu called the practice of employing institute staff at the director's residence “totally unacceptable”, adding that the government would make sure such trends do not recur. “A social justice committee will be formed to investigate and redress the grievances of students and employees belonging to Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste, and other marginalised groups in a timely manner. This committee will also operate to remove bottlenecks in availing the E-Grantz scholarship, besides looking into any issues regarding the course fees or grievances concerning restrictions imposed on workshops, project film shooting etc,” she said.

One of the major demands raised by the protesting students was the resignation of KRNNIVSA director Shankar Mohan, whom the institute’s sanitation workers had accused of intense caste discrimination. The workers had alleged that the director and his wife regularly forced them to do household work at his residence, including cleaning toilets using just a small scrubber. Shankar Mohan finally resigned two days ago, claiming that he was doing so because his term had ended and not because of the protest.

The director’s resignation, however, was only one among the 14 demands raised by the students, who issued a statement on Sunday that they would end their strike only after their other demands were also met. “Apart from Shankar Mohan’s resignation, we had 14 other demands. We have now been promised that they will also be taken care of. We have received a written statement that classes will be resumed soon and action will be taken to resolve the issues of the staff. We are wrapping up the protest now, but we will continue not to cooperate with our chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan,” KRNNIVSA students council chairman Sreedev told the media after the meeting with the minister.

After the protests began, chairman and veteran filmmaker Adoor had made several claims through multiple interviews about Shankar Mohan’s efficiency and derided the protesting students. He had also slandered the women staff who raised serious allegations of caste discrimination against the director.

Read opinion: Dear Adoor, caste did not end because you discarded your surname at age 20

After the protest invited widespread attention during the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram, the government had set up a panel to probe the allegations. The panel, consisting of former chief secretary K Jayakumar and former vice chancellor of NUALS NK Jayakumar, submitted its findings to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on January 13. Media reports said the panel found director Shankar Mohan guilty of the charges levelled against him.

A postgraduate in ‘Screenplay writing and Film Direction’ from FTII, Pune, Shankar Mohan has worked in the Malayalam film industry as writer, actor, director, and distributor for over a decade. He has also served as director at the Directorate of Film Festivals.

Many prominent film personalities including directors Jeo Baby, Aashiq Abu, Amal Neerad,  Rajeev Ravi, and actor Fahadh Faasil had extended their support to the protesting students.

Read: Fahadh Faasil expresses support for students of KR Narayanan Film Institute


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