Over one thousand students of Karunya Institute had gathered in the wee hours of Friday morning in Coimbatore protesting against the management of the college. Their demand? An explanation for the ‘mysterious’ establishment fee of Rs 1 lakh that has been added to their annual fees year after year.
While the students had gathered in a sit in protest at the campus, shouting slogans late into the night against the management, things took a turn for the worse when the police were called in. According to reports and eye witness accounts, the management had called the police to talk the students into giving up their protest. While the police officers were talking to the students, one student pelted a stone at a window of one of the college buildings. This created chaos which prompted the police to lathi charge the students. The students who ran from the assault fell to the ground and were injured in the commotion.
Footage from the protests show students covering their faces with scarves before speaking to media. When TNM contacted the students, they all chose to remain anonymous fearing severe backlash from the management.
Janani* a second year student at the college says, “When we joined the college, they gave us a fee structure. We were paying according to it. Then every year they have gone on adding to the fees. They have introduced something called establishment fees. We don’t even know what that is for. They have refused to give us an explanation.”
Janani who stays at the college hostel says even things the students don’t need and don’t use are being charged to them.
“We have one room with two fans, one light, and for a single person it costs Rs 6000. There is no fee breakdown, no receipt given to us for this. And we stay with three other girls. We prefer to wash our own clothes. We don’t use laundry services. But they are compulsorily charging us for this. There is a “hot kitchen” where food is served. Even if we don’t eat, we are charged. Every year, they increase the fees by Rs 1 lakh for all courses. But the facilities remain the same. The motto of the college is arise and shine. We are arising but they are not listening to us,” she says.
Karthik* a third year student feels that they have put up with this for too long. And his main beef is with the imposition of religion. “They are imposing Christianity upon us during assembly. It was not compulsory at first. Now they are saying we won’t give you attendance if you don’t attend. We wanted to talk about all this to the police but they wanted to meet with only five representatives. But we don’t even have a students union. When we demanded one, we were shut down” he says.
However, another student of the college admits that there have been a few student vandals who have exploited the situation. He says, “The key issues are being diluted by a few students who are happy to blame the college for anything and everything. We want transparency and we don’t want religious imposition. Everything else is fine.”
While the college announced a two day holiday due to the protests, Vice Chancellor of the college Mannar Jawahar told the Times of India, “When we checked the fee records of the students who claimed they were asked for extra fee, we found that they had dues in the actual fee they had to pay. We had not asked them for any extra fee. We are also checking the fee records of other students.”