A professor at the Central University of Kerala, Kasargod, was suspended from the post of Head of Department of English and Comparative Literature on Friday, allegedly because he put up a Facebook post in support of a student who was arrested. Prasad Pannian, PhD, the suspended HOD, had put a Facebook post on August 11 in solidarity with research scholar Ganthoti Nagaraju, who has been arrested for breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm in the hostel.
“That an act of misdemeanour has been criminalised is deeply disturbing. As far as I understand, this is a minor offence that should have been settled on the campus itself,” Prasad Pannian wrote on Facebook.
“Mr Nagaraju lost his mother a few months back and has been going through severe mental stress and agony for the past few months. He has also not been receiving his fellowship for quite some time. It is extremely saddening to know that our student is lying on the cold floor of the prison cell on charges of breaking a glass pane. I strongly condemn this arrest and appeal to the authorities to secure the release of our student immediately,” he said.
Prasad Pannian was suspended by the University on Friday, which cited his comments on social media criticising the decisions of the University as the reason for suspension. "The Act of Dr Prasad Pannian is in violation of CCS Conduct Rules 1964 adopted by the University vide Ordinance No.34 and warrants Disciplinary proceedings against him," the suspension order says.
However, reliable sources in the University say that this is not the first arbitrary suspension, or vengeful action by the University, against professors and students. It has been happening for some time now, but it’s only now the media is hearing about it, says a source on condition of anonymity.
“It is all happening to people who criticise the administration,” says a source in the know. “This is the only University in Kerala under the Centre. So they want to paint a picture that they are being opposed because they are defending the Sangh Parivar leadership. But this has nothing to do with the Sangh Parivar. Students are protesting for their freedom and other rights, just like students do in any other college, or any other University. But they want to make out that these are all terrorists, Maoists and Dalit activists against the right wing.”
A teacher’s increment was allegedly cut because he supported an associate professor who had been suspended. A source also accused the University of changing rules arbitrarily to bring in line professors who were popular among students.
Akhil Jaya, a student of the Department of International Relations and Political Science, was expelled recently on the basis of a Facebook post he wrote criticising the administration. The student has allegedly written against the VC, registrar and warden. He has been known to actively take part in strikes, and also been involved in groups filing RTIs in an attempt to bring out corruptions in the University.
With Prasad Pannian’s HOD post being taken away, the University is coming under severe criticism. “He was reacting in a personal post against the arrest of a student on a Friday evening. They made sure that it was a Friday evening, so the student will remain in custody over the weekend, and couldn’t get bail. It is not a political organisation that’s being run there, it is a place to acquire knowledge. What kind of a generation are we developing if we are forcing them to remain silent, not to react to anything?” a source asks.
A circular has been released from the University, forbidding professors from speaking to the media.
“Before the new administration came, there were strikes happening in a bigger way. But not even one day’s class has been disrupted. It is not the same story now. This was a university that was performing well, with about 16 students qualifying for the NET last year. But the new administration is simply being high-handed, and is taking an oppressive stand.”
Vice Chancellor Professor G Gopakumar was unavailable for comment.