Prof Nandakumar removed as IIUCNN director following Deepa Mohanan’s protest

Deepa had alleged that it is because of caste descrimination by Nandakumar that her PhD, which was supposed to be completed in 2015, got extended till now.
Gomathi and Deepa Mohanan at the protest site
Gomathi and Deepa Mohanan at the protest site
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Seven days after the hunger strike by Deepa P Mohanan, the Dalit scholar at Mahatma Gandhi University, Nandakumar Kalarickal, who served as the director of the International and Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN), has been removed from the centre. A notice issued by the MG University Vice Chancellor Sabu Thomas mentioned that the post will be taken over by the Vice Chancellor himself. However, Deepa has questioned why the University order does not mention Nandkumar's removal explicitly, and simply mentions that the VC will take over responsibilities.

Deepa has been on a strike outside the university asking that Nandakumar Kalarickal be removed from the institute. She had alleged that it is because of caste descrimination by Nandakumar that her PhD, which was supposed to be completed in 2015, got extended till now. From preventing her from accessing the lab to denying her a seat at the workplace and even going to the extent of blocking her stipend, Nandakumar has made life really hard for her, Deepa alleged. Apart from this, Nandukumar had been rude and abusive towards her, Deepa said, and she believes it is because she was the only Dalit scholar in her batch.

The university’s decision came after state Higher Education Minister R Bindu on November 6, Saturday promised Deepa that all measures to remove the professor from the centre will be taken. The Minister had said that if the university delays the procedure, the government will directly intervene to remove Nandakumar.

Deepa started the hunger strike a week ago demanding that the institute provide her an environment to complete her research, provide her lab facilities and chemicals and remove her guide Radhakrishnan EK. The university had earlier agreed to all demands except removal of Nandakumar from the centre. In the recent release, the VC has informed, “To complete the student’s (Deepa) research, we will give fees exemptions, will provide hostel and laboratory facilities and also provide a new guide for her research. Her research centre's authority will be taken from Dr Nandakumar Kalarickal by the VC.”

However, Deepa and the organisation Bhim Army Kerala that has been assisting her strike said that they will not end the protest and called it a decision to misguide them. “Nandakumar is currently in a foreign country, so they temporarily took away his position. When he is back, the position will be given back to him. The Vice Chancellor is protecting him,” Mansoor Konchukadavu, Bhim Army Kerala state vice president, told TNM.

The MG University VC in his statement removing Nandakumar as IIUCNN director also said that there were allegations against Deepa that she had not been following the regular academic procedures at the centre. “As per PhD regulations every student has to submit a half-yearly research development report. But since 2014 no such reports were received from Deepa…..Her research guide Radhakrishnan KE had informed the university that he cannot be her guide anymore as she neither followed his instructions nor was her research progressing,” the Vice Chancellor’s note alleged.

The note said that the university had probed allegations raised by Deepa against Nandakumar. “Nandakumar has also complained that Deepa was making false allegations and behaved in a way no research student should have behaved,” the statement said.

The note also said that Deepa has asked to extend her research period two times. However, Deepa had alleged that she couldn’t finish her research on time as she was denied facilities.

Deepa joined the MG University 10 years ago to do her MPhil after doing a Masters in Medical Microbiology.

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