When student editors of the Mar Athanasius College of Engineering in Kothamangalam, Kerala, released their annual magazine in March 2019, little did they suspect that four months later, it would become a subject of ire among the Hindu groups in the state.
Focused on the theme of women empowerment, the magazine titled 'Ana Kera Mala, Adu Kera Mala, Aayiram Kanthari Poothirangi' (Where elephants don't tread, and goats don't tread, a hundred daredevils venture) carried articles on the Supreme Court judgement allowing entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. It also made a passing mention of Bindu and Kanakadurga, who made headlines by becoming the first women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter the temple post the verdict.
Following agitations by right-wing groups who marched to the college on Thursday, and particularly the Hindu Aikya Vedi headed by KP Sasikala, who accused the college of targeting Hindu sentiments, the institution has now chosen to withdraw the magazine.
A note issued by Principal K Mathew on July 24, read, "The principal of the Mar Athanasius Engineering College, which comes under the Mar Athanasius Association, has withdrawn the college magazine for 2017-18, as certain criticisms published in the edition do not resonate with the ideals and views of the college."
However, the editors of the magazine, who passed out in 2019, are not happy with this decision.
"It feels like they have succumbed to pressure from religious outfits, instead of protecting the students' freedom of expression. The magazine is up online and had been distributed to students months ago. We will not remove it from the internet. If the college insists, we will remove the name of the institution," says Rhithwik MS, former chairman of the SFI students union and sub-editor of the magazine.
On July 23, Hindu Aikya Vedi President KP Sasikala took to Facebook to hit out at the 'Christian-run' institution for releasing the magazine.
"Students, why do your tongues not work when you have to ask why one particular religion has been targeted? Does having a minority status mean that you can trample on the majority?" she asked on her Facebook post.
Reacting to Sasikala's post, Rhithwik said, "Although the college comes under the Mar Athanasius Association, their management is not run by Christians." He further added that the magazine focused on the issue of women's empowerment and did not attempt to portray any particular religion in a bad light.
"They are upset over the title of the magazine and have assumed that we were referring to Sabarimala. This is wrong. The title is a riddle and it actually means the skies. The subject is empowerment and we wanted to state that the possibilities are limitless for women. We have even mentioned this in the editorial," Rhithwik stated. The issue also contained articles on the novel Meesha, which had stirred controversy in 2018 and 'Arpo Arthavam' - the festival which celebrates menstruation.