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No freedom, tranquility on campuses; student union offices ‘torture dens’: Report to Governor
Kerala

No freedom, tranquility on campuses; student union offices ‘torture dens’: Report to Governor

Ajayan

Tranquility and freedom from fear within the campus are essential for any higher education institution to attain excellence. "Unfortunately our campuses do not have both for almost a decade now. However, no serious efforts were taken by Governments to set right things and kept on subtly supporting hooliganism on the campus for its petty political gains. The situation cannot continue like this anymore," says the report submitted to the Governor today by the independent commission headed by Justice (retd) PK Shamsudeen.

Besides University College in Thiruvananthapuram, students' union offices in several colleges were functioning as 'torture chambers', the report said.

It specifically pointed out that torture chambers were being operated in Thiruvananthapuram Government. Arts College, Ernakulam Maharaja's College and Kozhikode Madappally College.

The commission was formed after the suicide attempt of a student on the University College campus a few months ago. Soon followed the stabbing of a student by college SFI leaders which was also looked into.

It basically inquired into the violation of human rights, violence and irregularities in higher education institutions in Kerala and had depositions by several  individuals and the opinions and suggestions made by academics, and former principals and teachers.

Strong voice was heard during deposition that both internal and external examinations in colleges and university departments were not conducted properly and irregularities were rampant.

Principals and teachers jointly and several others deposed that quite often outsiders in the guise of political leaders forcibly entered the campus without even seeking permission from the principal to help the student organisation that owed allegiance to their political party.

There was a tendency for student leaders to stay on campuses and hostels after class and office hours. This was a cause for indiscipline and principals were found helpless as there were no proper security arrangements, especially during nights.

Complaints were galore from parents and public men that some teachers openly participated in political activities on the campus and Left organisations were in the forefront. This promoted indiscipline on campuses.

The report felt there was urgent need to amend the Kerala Anti Ragging Act,1998, to deal with the present situation.

CCTV should be provided in all examination halls to prevent malpractices, as per UGC guidelines, the report said.

It also suggested curbing student union activities in the present form.

Tutorial system had to be reintroduced and guardians should be informed about attendance, behaviour and performance of wards at tests and examinations.

About University College, the report said the relatively serene atmosphere on the campus was steadily and craftily subverted by vested political interests over the years later on. Those unable to withstand the terror and unwilling to compromise on their values, preferred to leave the campus.

The college union controlled the academic and cultural life of the campus. "Gifted, talented and hardworking students are hounded and pestered so much that they either toe their tormentor’s line like sheep or become silent witnesses to the tragic drama," the report says.

Key observations of the report:

  • Excessive influence of party politics contributing to extensive abuse, intimidation, bullying and other gruesome human rights violations on campuses.
  • dominant student unions having allegiance to any one political party take possession of the campus over the years and do not allow any other union to function.
  • Students are forcefully dragged out of their classes by dominant unions for the purpose of making them unwilling participants in political rallies and programmes.
  • Attendance in classes are at times recorded by unions and not  teachers.
  • There is no proper grievance redress mechanism
  • Manipulations in admission to courses and conduct of examinations are rampant.
  • unholy nexus of political unions of staff, teaching and non-teaching, with student leaders often ignites, amplifies and augments unrest, strikes as well as violence on campuses.
  • Spot admission should not be entrusted to the college but university.
  • Admission to seats under the sports quota may be monitored and regulated by universities.
  • The system of re-admission is often misused and manipulated so that some students continue on the campus even after the termination of the stipulated period of a course.