Tuesday was a historic day for Mridhula Gopi and all of Kochi’s Maharaja’s College. Contesting from the Students Federation of India, Mridhula has become the first woman Chairman of the college’s Student’s Committee in seven decades.
Elated at her win, Mridhula said that her victory was a win for all women’s students. “The moment of victory was exciting. I was elated as it is a victory for all the women students in the college,” Mridhula says.
What only adds to Mridhula’s joy is that six other women from the SFI have been elected alongside her. “The campaign was tight. I am happy that six out of the seven women from the SFI panel won the election.”
Mridhula says that the response to her candidature from within the SFI and from the larger student population was hearteningly positive. “Not a single student in the college viewed my candidature as irrelevant, the reception was overwhelming. The male students were equally or even more supportive. They helped in doing the background work for the campaign, which was of huge help to me,” she says.
Mridhula’s victory is fairly unique in a space where Vice Chairperson posts are reserved for women students in all campuses, but women are rarely chosen as candidates for the highest post in student bodies.
Maharaja’s College, where nearly 75% of students are women, has had one other woman Chairperson. However, Aniyathi Menon, the then Chairperson, was nominated for the post. Mridhula is therefore the first woman to be elected to the post since the College’s founding in 1875.
Hailing from Kumbalangi village in Ernakulam, Mridhula says she has never felt that keeping away from politics is a good thing for the student community. “The current situation in the world is challenging and needs active intervention from students.”
Mridhula says that she has been drawn to the SFI since a young age. “I view the organisation as the only one capable of effectively fighting for students’ rights and intervening in social issues,” she says.
But to get to the point where she is today, she says, she has had to convince her own family of the rightness of student politics. “My father used to work for the CPI (M) earlier. There was some objection from my parents when I became active in student politics. But now my parents view it as something of a social cause,” she says.
She adds that she sees her own victory as a part of the larger movement by women across the world. “My aim is to be a part of the protests taken forward by women across the world, and in my own way strengthen them. I want to address the issues faced by the female students in the college,” she says.
The SFI unit of Maharaja’s College was in the news earlier in the year when some of its members burned the then Principal’s chair as part of a protest. But Mridhula says that the organisation does not approve of such methods.
“We agree that sometimes protests by some SFI students have been emotional and immature. The organisation was prompt to take disciplinary action against those students,” she points out.
She adds, “But SFI has never tried to create controversies through its protests. The protest against the Principal was launched when she made a derogatory statement about a female student. But we didn’t support setting ablaze the Principal’s chair. The SFI protest made the principal publicly apologise to the student and to female students in general,” Mridhula asserts.