Dissent on Social Media Leads to Unfair Expulsion and Suspension of Student and Faculty of Central University of Kerala
September 11, 2018
The Central University of Kerala is facing a huge backlash from writers, activists and students across the country. In an attempt to crush the dissenting voices in the campus, the university administration recently took action against both students and faculty who had been critical of their actions.
On September 7, the university administration suspended Prasad Pannian from his post as the Head of the Department over his Facebook post written on August 11. In his post, he criticised the university administration’s high-handedness with Dalit scholar Ganthoti Nagaraju, a Ph.D student in Department of Linguistics, for taking both legal and police action against him. Pannian not only extended his solidarity with the scholar, but also condemned this act of the administration. Soon after Prasad posted this on Facebook, the administration initiated a disciplinary action against him. The letter signed by the Vice-Chancellor on September 7 states that “The act of Prasad Pannian is in violation of CCS Conduct Rules 1964 adopted by the University vide Ordinance No. 34 and warrants disciplinary proceedings against him. Therefore Prasad Pannian is suspended from the post of Head of Department of English and Comparative literature.”
This is not the first time the administration has tried to crush the dissenting voices of the campus. On June 25, the Central University of Kerala had suspended Akhil Thazhath, a final year student of International Relations and Political Science over his Facebook post. Akhil had written a post on Facebook criticising the academic community of the campus. In the enquiry submitted to the administration, it has been alleged that the student hasn’t apologised to the authorities and the executive council for his post. Speaking to ICF Akshara from the Student Federation of India (SFI) said that “This is a baseless allegation since he hasn’t posted anything offensive as the administration claims. The student has also submitted an apology letter about the misunderstanding regarding the situation. In his letter, Akhil clarified that he hasn’t abused any member of the University and in case anyone was hurt by his Facebook status, he apologises for that. So, the administration’s argument about Akhil not submitting a response and apology is a blatant lie. Also, the administration has not forwarded the apology letter to the enquiry committee. It is a planned attack by the administration.”
These actions of the administration have led to a huge uproar in the University. Both the students and the faculty stood in solidarity with Pannian and Akhil Thazhath demanding justice. A source close to the University told ICF that on September 11, the administration, in a notice, asked Pannian to hand over his position to another faculty. He has since been replaced by another faculty as the acting “in-charge” from the same department. According to the source, “the university administration is acting vindictively towards Pannian and others. The university administration had targeted other faculties for questioning the administration earlier as well. Central University of Kerala is the only central university in the state and therefore we know that the orders come from the Centre and the administration is not accountable even to the Kerala government for their actions. ”
In a further development in this case, on September 8, Akhil Thazhath was dismissed by the administration. The Facebook post, written originally in Malayalam, reads “I have been ousted by the University over my Facebook post. The administration acts vindictively towards both the staff members and students within the campus. But I am not the only one. They have already dismissed 15 of their workers including poor mess workers from the campus. The administration has become anti-student and anti-worker. They have done many political appointments in the campus. All of them inclined towards BJP-RSS…”
Standing in solidarity with the targeted students and faculties, SFI organised a protest in the campus. The student organisation demanded to revoke the suspension of Prasad Pannian and Akhil Thahath, and to make the library a 24×7 facility. The student representative from the Left organisation met the Pro Vice-Chancellor K Jayaprasad with their demands. However, an hour and a half long meeting with the administration resulted in no substantial outcome. “We don’t have a permanent solution as both the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar are not on campus. We have given a call to meet the administration with our demands on September 18 of this month”, said Akshara.
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