Central University of Kerala: Assistant Professor, two students face wrath for dissent against administration

Circular of the university forbidding employees reaching out to the media

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter

The Central University of Kerala (CUK) is again in the news now for all the wrong reasons. A senior PhD scholar was dismissed from the hostel after the university authorities went for a police case and arrest when he broke a glass pane in the hostel. An assistant professor who criticized it on the social media was also removed from the post of the head of the English and Comparative Literature Department while another student was dismissed for his Facebook post. And the University reportedly issued a circular on August 14 barring students and teachers of the institution against responding to the media on the issues.

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The acts of the university authorities have invited sharp criticism and protest from students, academicians and civil rights activists alike. The CUK chapter of the Ambedkar Students’ Association organised an event of collective reading on Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ in the university on September 13. On September 11, the organisation had submitted its demands before the Pro-VC as the VC, Dr Gopakumar, was not available, and accordingly, a meeting has been arranged to be held between the students and the VC on September 18. Civil rights activists and academicians from Kerala expressed their solidarity and support to the democratic rights of the teachers and students of the CUK in a joint statement issued on September 9.  The Kasargod district committee of the Left Democratic Front has called for a comprehensive probe into the alleged irregularities in the university.

In another development, a few glass panes were broken during the protest march held by the SFI and DYFI to the campus on Wednesday, and the university authorities reportedly filed a police case against four students.  Even though protest is going on in the campus, classes are being held as usual as the student organisations have decided not to boycott classes till the meeting on Tuesday September 18.

The incident related to the latest happenings took place in July. Ganthothi Nagaraju, a senior PhD scholar hailing from Telangana and active member of the Ambedkar Students Association, broke the glass pane of a fire alarm cabinet in the hostel. Nagaraju who had completed his MPhil from the University of Hyderabad was a close friend of Rohit Vemula (who committed suicide in 2016 protesting caste discrimination). He had lost his mother a month back and had not received his fellowship for months, and hence was understood to be mentally depressed and frustrated at the time.  He was reportedly suspended from the hostel on July 9. He admitted to the authorities of breaking the glass pane (which cost less than Rs 200) and got ready to pay fine for the same. But the authorities registered a complaint with the police, who arrested him on August 9 under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. He was remanded for 5 days on the trivial charge, before getting bail on August 14, but has to report to the Bekal police station every Saturday. Nagaraju was actively involved in the protests in the university for democratic rights, including better hostel facilities, and he has now been out of the hostel altogether.

Dr Prasad Pannian, associate professor and head of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the CUK, put up a post on his Facebook wall on August 11 extending solidarity to his student Nagaraju.  Dr Pannian was removed from the post of the Head of the Department on September 7.  Reports suggest that Dr Pannian was not in the good books of the administration as he used to question several moves taken by the authorities, especially when he was the Chief Vigilance Officer a few years back. The University authorities have also released a media statement on September 11, digging up old files against Dr Pannian, after the CUK received harsh criticism from all corners for the action against the assistant professor.

Akhil Thazheth, a student of MA International Relations and Political Science, was also dismissed on September 7 for the same reason – a post on Facebook which, the authorities say, was critical of the actions of the university. Akhil had posted a part of his Malayalam story on Facebook, after which he was suspended pending an inquiry on the matter on June 25, according to reports. The inquiry panel asked him to apologize in two sittings but he refused, explaining he hadn’t done anything wrong, and he was expelled.

Dismissal order of Akhil Thazheth

The Central University of Kerala was established in the state’s northernmost district of Kasargod in 2009.  It currently has more than 1,000 students in 17 postgraduate and research programmes. Since then the university has always had unrest and problems. Media reports suggest that there are around 70 cases in the Kerala High Court related to the CUK regarding recruitment scam, partisan acts, anti-Dalit moves etc. Several petitions have reportedly been filed on cases of denial of reservation, suspension of teachers, denial of admission to PhD programme, denial of reservation for the differently-abled etc. The petitions hint towards the actions the University has taken against several teachers, students and staff at different times.

There have also been reports that a CBI inquiry has been requested into the recruitment scam that took place in the university five years back. The Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr K Jayaprasad is the vice-president of the Kerala chapter of the Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram. Meanwhile, for the first time in the history of the University, Ganesh Chaturthi festival was reportedly celebrated in the auditorium in the campus last day, with the cooperation of students from North India. Onam, the state festival of Kerala, is the only festival that has been celebrated in the university until now.

Order removing Dr Prasad Pannian as head of department