Five days after Deepa Mohanan put up embarrassing questions for the Students’ Federation of India, the organization has responded, saying that they had indeed supported her, but claiming that she was sometimes at fault.
On January 20, Deepa put up a set of seven questions on her Facebook wall, asking the SFI why it had failed to support her when they are not supporting the Hyderabad University students over Rohith Vemula’s death.
In April 2015, The News Minute had reported that Deepa had faced caste discrimination at the International and Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at MG University in Kottayam. The case is being investigated both by the police and by the university.
On Sunday, Athira Kottarathil, a member of the Kerala state committee member replied in detail to the questions that Deepa raised.
Deepa’s questions had ranged from “Why didn’t you bother to issue even a statement when I was subjected to atrocity and caste-based discrimination at the university?” to “Should the SFI be protecting the professor who called me a thief and did not give me a permanent seat, just because he is a member of a pro-Left organisation?”
In his response, Athira said that SFI was the first organization to protest against the discrimination that Deepa faced.
“SFI protested when we learned that Deepa was locked inside the lab. Dalit activists were just joining the protests conducted by SFI. We later conducted meetings with Dr Nandakumar Kalarickal and Dr Sabu Joseph in the presence of teaching staff association leader Dr Prakash Kumar, have also given complaints to VC and Registrar,” Athira wrote.
Kalarickal is the faculty member Deepa has named in her complaints with the women’s commission and the human rights commission.
To Deepa’s allegation that she was not given a seat, while all her batch mates had a chair and table, Athira claimed that she was not the only student who faced this situation.
“SFI has criticized the pathetic condition of research centers in universities in many venues. Most of the students don’t have a place to sit, because these centers are established in limited facilities in a short span,” the post said.
To Deepa’s allegation that the centre’s joint director Nandakumar Kalarickal locked her inside the lab claiming that she had not taken permission to enter lab, SFI said it had protested, but claimed that Deepa was at fault.
“In International and Inter University Center for Nano science and Nano technology (IICNN) lab, prior permission is needed for entry during holidays. And at least two people should be there in the lab. That day was a holiday and she had not taken permission to work in the lab. Dr Nandakumar asked her to go out of the lab in foul language, but she did not go and he came out of the lab. The rules are for the safety of the students,” the post says.
Athira also said that Deepa should not forget the intervention of the SFI and AKSRA’s (research scholars association) which helped her to continue her studies at the center and procure her research chemicals on time.
He also said that the student union had not tried to protect any teacher. “Those who are at fault should be punished. In 2014 April two Dalit girls were locked in IIRBS (another center) and SFI was actively involved in the protest against it,” Athira said.
Athira also countered saying that no Dalit activists or leaders helped those two women and that SFI’s intervention speeded up the enquiry.
“Years ago there was a complaint given by all students of the university hostel against Deepa to the Registrar seeking her expulsion from hostel due to her bad manners. At that time, without considering others’ objections, SFI helped her stay in hostel,” Athira says.
He also said that Deepa was not ostracized in campus. Posters voicing support were put up around the campus. Deepa said that after the posters appeared she was called Maoist and ostrasized.
“We don’t believe that it was done by Maoists. It was a foolish act of some new activists in the campus. Deepa was criticized for that,” the post concludes.
However Deepa maintains that she had to single-handedly fight against the problems she faced.