Controversy
While SFI Ma’din college unit did not publish photos of women candidates at all, SFI Aspire college unit replaced the women candidate’s photos with a generic image.

The Students Federation of India – the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – which is proud of its progressive tag, appears to have forgotten its units in two Kerala colleges when it conducted its gender sensitization classes for its cadre.

Ahead of the Calicut University student union election, SFI units in two colleges have come under fire for not publishing the photos of its women candidates on election posters.

While the SFI unit of Ma’din Arts and Science College in Malappuram district left blank the space for photographs while listing its women candidates (two out of 13), SFI unit of Aspire college, Palakkad, chose to publish a generic image in place of 4 of its women candidates.

While the move is facing flak for being over-bearing towards women and sexist, the poster of Aspire college is being particularly lambasted for publishing an image of a woman wearing a burqa for its women candidates, irrespective of their religion. To add the cherry on top, the image is revolutionary all the way – the scarf is red and has an image which suspiciously looks like Che Guevara.

A day after both the posters invited backlash on social media, the posters have been replaced.

Secretary of the SFI’s Malappuram district, Shyam told The News Minute that there had been no intention to discriminate. “The people who have made this controversy has been mistaken. They are raising allegations without knowing the facts of the matter,” he said.

“The poster without photos of the women candidates was posted on Facebook by the college SFI unit to reach out to people. It was in no way an official announcement, nor was it deliberate to keep the photos of the women candidates out of the election poster,” Shyam said.

He claimed that the photos of the women candidates were not available when the poster was designed on Wednesday. “We then decided not to get it printed on Wednesday. One of the members transferred the soft copy of the poster – without the women candidates’ photos – and posted it on the college unit’s Facebook page,” he claimed.

He maintained that the flex board was printed after receiving the two photographs the next day, and that the college SFI Facebook page was not the official page of the SFI. The Ma’din college unit had put up flex boards with photographs of the women candidates in the college on Friday.

In contrast, the Palakkad SFI District Secretary Jayadevan told The News Minute that the decision to keep the photos of four women candidates out of the election poster was a conscious decision made by the Aspire college election unit.  

“Last year, women candidates faced severe harassment at the hands of Muslim League workers after their photos were published. There were a lot of derogatory remarks and marriage proposals of some women candidates were affected by it. That is why the college committee decided to omit it this time.”

Jayadevan, however, admitted that the women candidates had no role in the decision. “They did not request for their photos to be omitted, but considering there are only 20 girl students in the college, the college unit took the decision. But the way it was done is not acceptable. If the girls' photo was omitted, the male candidates’ photos too should have been omitted.”

Saying that the SFI has always been fighting for women’s empowerment, Jayadevan said that the district committee was not involved in the decision. “The moment we learned of this, we asked for the poster to be replaced with the photographs of all the women candidates,” he said.