Thiruvananthapuram is witnessing unprecedented student protests against the Kerala Law Academy, a protest in which students and politicians cutting across affiliations have come together.
The demand by all protesting groups is the same: the removal of Lekshmi Nair as the college’s Principal.
Lekshmi Nair, Kerala’s celebrity TV chef has, however, been shielded for weeks by her father and founder of the college, Narayanan Nair. A man with much clout, Narayanan Nair has rejected the demands for resignation, saying that it will set a wrong precedent.
Amidst allegations of harassment, oppression and favouritism against Lekshmi Nair, what makes these protests unique is that not many voices have come forward to support her, not even the students she favoured.
“This clearly shows the level of suffering the students had to endure. Over the years, she has given internal marks to those students she liked. Even they have not come forward to support her,” points out Parvathi T, popular anchor, social activist and a former student of the Kerala Law Academy.
Parvathi was a student of the academy in 2005, but did not complete her course, as the college claimed she had shortages in attendance.
Over the last few days, many students have come forward alleging that Lekshmi Nair made them repeat semesters, claiming attendance shortage.
Students have been fasting outside the college, have held protest marches and have even threatened to commit suicide. Top leaders of every political party including the CPI(M), the CPI, the Congress and the BJP have made a beeline to endorse the protest.
“The protests are becoming bigger as no one was paying any attention to it. These students have no other option. They know that if they have to get justice, she has to resign. If, in spite of these protests, Lekhsmi Nair manages to come back, that would spell doom for them. She will have her vengeance, and that can’t be allowed,” says Parvathi.
During the time when Parvathi was a student in the college, Lekshmi Nair was not the principal, but the college was still her fiefdom.
“She used to run the show, even though Narayanan Nair sir was there. People have rebelled, and protests were planned many times. But Narayanan sir would dissuade everyone and students would decide to move on out of their respect for him,” she says.
Parvathi believes the large scale protests are now occurring because of pent up frustration.
“She had many ways to deal with students. Many students got admission through recommendation and if someone did not toe the line, the college would complain to the person who gave the recommendation. The family has always been powerful in Kerala, and they are politically connected. Who would have the courage to oppose them?” Parvathi asks.
She says Lekshmi Nair would taunt everyone, everywhere. “She used to make disparaging remarks at all, especially girl students. She would say hurtful things in public and even at parents. I can understand that some people are aggressive and excessively angry, but students cannot be targeted,” Parvathi said.
The social activist also pointed that on many occasions matters would not end with just a verbal assault. “It was during our time that a boy who had apparently questioned Lekshmi Nair was brutally beaten on campus. Goons came to college and even had swords in their hands,” she said.
Parvathi however adds that she was opposed to stories and social media posts that were sexist in nature. “I am against misogyny. Question the stances she has taken as a principal, don’t demean her in other ways. Finally, I hope she understands how students feel and things will change,” Parvathi concludes.