The Kerala Student Union (KSU) and Student Federation of India (SFI) are two major student groups active in Kerala. In various campuses across the state, activists from these two groups often find themselves engaged in violent clashes due to their ideological differences. However, last month witnessed an unusual collaboration: the district-level leaders of these groups in Malappuram joined hands to secure a television set for a Class 10 student, who was struggling to access academic lectures currently being televised in the state.
It all began with a call for support by Haris Muthoor, Malappuram district president of KSU, through a WhatsApp status. The call was duly responded by KA Sakeer, the district secretary of SFI.
Both Haris and Sakeer say that their organisations contributed, or helped others to contribute, hundreds of television sets to financially struggling families, so that their school-going children could get access to classes currently being delivered through a state-run television channel.
These television sets are often bought and distributed with the help of their parent and sister organisations, as well as through sponsorships, received through college alumni associations, institutions, former student activists and other concerned individuals.
A WhatsApp status
Haris, the KSU district president who initiated the whole series of events, told The News Minute that it all started with a WhatsApp status.
He said when a fresh demand for a TV for a poor student reached him, he decided to find a sponsor. He said he did so because he had already used most of the sponsors he knew to support other students earlier.
The first one who responded to the status and offered a TV for the student was KA Sakeer, the district secretary of SFI, Haris said. The beneficiary is a Class 10 student who was struggling to access lectures without a television at home.
‚ÄúHe (Sakeer) responded to my status and offered a television,‚ÄĚ Haris explains. ‚ÄúI thought, why should I reject the offer just because it came from an activist from a rival group?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe student will benefit, even if the television is sponsored through SFI,‚ÄĚ Haris explains.
Growing sense of shared actions
Both Haris and Sakeer say their action is not unusual in a state that has grappled with multiple crises in the recent past, including two devastating floods. The country is currently fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and both say they wanted to send a message of cooperation for common good.
These young political activists believe that various crises that the state has had to face collectively deserves reconsideration on how the social activists and politicians function.
Haris said the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has created a ‚Äėspecial‚Äô situation in which everyone needs to cooperate with others on possible grounds.
‚ÄúThe situation we are undergoing is something special. We all need to survive this crisis... It may not be good to see politics in everything,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWhoever sponsors, I am happy that a student who was in need of a television set has got it,‚ÄĚ he added.
Sakeer agrees on this.
‚ÄúNo one should be hesitant to work with others if it can be helpful for a needy person,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúOne must ignore the political differences to do such collaborations.‚ÄĚ Sakeer also believes that through such joint actions, there can be a fresh ‚ÄėKerala model.‚Äô
Sakeer said it‚Äôs the role of his organisation to work with others for public good, adding that this is not for the first time that such collaborations have taken place. ‚ÄúIn Kerala, similar developments also happened during the protests on the citizenship issue (CAA). Both the chief minister and the Opposition leader protested jointly,‚ÄĚ he said.
Some student activists have begun to mock the incident by maligning and shaming rival groups.
Sakeer told TNM that he ‚Äúcannot agree‚ÄĚ with any attempt to use the current incident for political gains and to malign other organisations. ‚ÄúWe have given instructions to our members to refrain from such acts,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúSuch actions could weaken similar works in future‚ÄĚ.
Haris declined to comment on the criticism he faces from his organisation after the incident.
Muhammed Sabith is an independent journalist currently based in Kozhikode, Kerala. He tweets at @MuhemmadSabith.