After a month long agitation led by ABVP and BJP leaders, the management of Kerala Law Academy, despite being supported by the ruling CPM and its students’ wing SFI, kneels down before the demands of students
T Satisan from Kerala
The students’ power won. Kerala Law Academy (KLA) stir ended on the 29th day. Conceding to the demands of students, the management expelled the principal Lakshmi Nair. SFI is totally isolated among students. CPM once again proved, they are always with the evil forces. But here they bowed to the students’ unity and people of Kerala.
The dramatic turn came when CPI secretary Kanam Rajendran and party’s Minister VS Sunilkumar took initiative to meet the warring student leaders after the matter was discussed in the Cabinet meeting of February 8. It followed the meeting chaired by Education Minister C Raveendranath and attended by student leaders, Sunilkumar, senior CPI leader Pannyan Raveendran and KAL director Dr Narayanan Nair. This time contrary to the agreement reached between SFI and the management a few days back, management gave in writing that Dr Lakshmi Nair would never come back to the Principal’s chair. New Principal, with the UGC parameters, will be appointed. The college will reopen on February 13. The premises of KLA burst with celebration. The girls are happier than boys. Because they launched the stir. Boys followed the suit; boys agree this. This is the girls’ victory. They swam in the agitation from the launch to the end, perhaps the first incident in the state’s campus history. They got a campus sans Principal Lakshmi Nair, a person they hate in sleep and wake.
ABVP enjoys every right to take pride in this victory. They led the agitation from the very beginning as SFI came late and was a ‘reluctant partner.’ Unlike AISF and KSU, ABVP has got a statewide network helpful for leading such an agitation to the victory. BJP leader V Muraleedharan’s indefinite hunger strike is ABVP’s achievement. When the former ABVP leader started hunger strike, Congress and CPI could smell the imminent achievement for BJP and ABVP. So, they all came around, launch of a popular force. ABVP leaders Nidhish and Shyamraj played a crucial role as the cementing force to maintain the unity among various student organisations and girls which led the movement to sterling victory sans SFI’s involvement. The resignation of centenarian Ayyappan Pillai, the senior leader of BJP, as the chairman of KLA was a heavy blow to the management. It is a great saga in golden letters in Kerala’s academic history.
Timeline of KLA Strike
BJP state vice president and prominent Dalit leader PP Vava lost his left eye in the police attack on the BJP protest march against the Dalit atrocities by Lakshmi Nair who abused Dalit students by calling caste name. The arm of Renu Suresh, another Dalit leader and the state president of Bharatiya Mahila Morcha, was broken in the police brutality against Morcha march she led.
The students of Kerala Law Academy Law College (KLA) in Thiruvananthapuram, at a stone throw away distance from the secretariat building, have been agitating against the management demanding the immediate and unconditional resignation of Principal Dr Lakshmi Nair, the celebrity chef and regular anchor of cookery shows being telecast by CPM-controlled Kairali channel. She is a known CPM supporter even though her father Narayanan Nair and brother claim to be CPI men. Her father’s brother Koliyakkodu Krishnan Nair is a CPM state committee member and board member of KLA. She recently said that she prefers to join CPM. Students and their parents complain, ‘Her first priority is cookery shows and travelogues for CPM-controlled TV channel; favourite students get abundant attendance, and internal marks; others are losers!’ Girls allege that her son’s fiancée, a senior student, controls the girls’ hostel; she and her close friends get internal marks and attendance liberally; other girls need the future bahu’s nod before they go out!
ABVP, AISF (CPI-led), KSU (Congress-led), MSF (Muslim League-led) started the agitation against the management and Principal. Significantly the proactive participation of the hostel girls played crucial role. They were apolitical. They told the media, they were for the immediate removal of Lakshmi Nair. Later on SFI joined the agitation reluctantly as they were afraid of ABVP taking the credit. They were worried about the victorious agitation ABVP recently led for getting justice for about 70,000 engineering students (Organiser: Jan 1, 2017). Former BJP state president and ABVP’s former national general secretary V Muraleedharan started an indefinite hunger strike in front of the college. BJP national general secretary Muraleedhar Rao, Kummanam Rajasekhran and other prominent leaders were present. BJP leaders sought Governor’s intervention in KLA matters. Senior leaders of Congress and CPI addressed the students. CPM kept away from the agitation. But, VS Achuthanandan, former CM and CM Pinarayi’s the bête noir, addressed the agitators demanding the immediate government takeover of the excess land KLA holds.
ABVP took a lead role in KLA agitation. During the first three days, Lakshmi Nair was reported absconding. Later, she gave interviews to the media in her usual arrogant style; her efforts for justification miserably failed. The press meet she convened in a hotel; despite war-like police security two ABVP students barged into the venue and raised loud slogans against her. They spread ABVP’s saffron flag on her table. They disrupted the perplexed Nair’s press meet.
Meanwhile, Sub-committee of Kerala University’s CPM dominated Syndicate gathered the statements and grievances regarding the allegations raised by the students and their parents. It devised a formula and passed a resolution debarring the Principal from all examinations related duties for 5 years. Congress and CPI members argued for stricter measures; but, CPM members, ensured the vote of government secretaries and passed the resolution.
One fine morning, SFI, a partner of the united students movement, reached some agreements with the management and withdrew from the agitation. SFI swallowed the sops. One was a word that the Principal would keep away from the position for 5 years. New Principal to come. Students’ complaints about the anomalies in internal marks, attendance and caste discrimination would be addressed; CCTV cameras erected near the bathrooms of the girls’ hostel would be removed; girls would get freedom to go for shopping on weekends; but other student bodies did not accept it as there was no guarantee for the no return of Dr Nair to the Principal’s position and she was tipped to be the head of the research wing of KLA. If she returns, she would take cruel revenge against those who spoke against her during the agitation. Her father refused to seek resignation as he was worried about her suicide! Girls said, she even ridiculed their channel interviews as their crave for media glare. She told the media that she would not resign come what may.
Caste on the Campus
Dalit students complained, they were forced to do the cleaning and serving jobs in Principal’s restaurant near the college. They were even asked to
distribute restaurant’s publicity
pamphlets among the drunkards at the nearby booze outlet. Girls complained, Lakshmi Nair abused them for wearing modern dress, talking to the boys, etc. They maintain that Dr Nair had no moral right to question their decent clothes as her costumes during her cookery show and travelogue
programmes were too revealing and unfit for her position and age. They complain about her complexion-based discrimination.
Vivek Vijayagiri and Selvan had complained to the local police station against Lakshmi Nair’s Dalit atrocities, long back, but no action; they told the media that the Police Inspector of that area was once a student of KLA. When the medias flashed it for days together, police registered a case for name’s sake. It is under 3 (s) of The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which is a non-bailable offence. The students allege, they were asked to give statements but the questions were silly, like, colour and register number of the car she drove that day, the colour of sari she wore, etc.! The State Human Rights Commission also has registered a suo motu case against Lakshmi Nair on similar grounds. Her counter is silly: She belongs to a communist
family hence allegation is false. Vivek thinks, if he were in a North Indian state, CPM might have come to
Mother of one of the girl students complained that the Principal shouted at her daughter when she requested for the leave of absence due to spine
illness. Nair condemned the girl’s father in filthy language. Immediately channels telecasted its audio clip. Girls said, if Nair sees them talking to boys she calls the parents and warns them, they would be going to see their daughters pregnant soon!
When V Muraleedharan’s health deteriorated after a week of hunger strike and was hospitalised, BJP secretary VV Rajesh continued the fast. Then K Muraleedhran MLA, Congress leader and the son of late Congress veteran K Karunakaran also started hunger strike. KLA unit office bearers of AISF, KSU and MSF were also on hunger strike. As a welcome development, the leaders of all parties visited leaders on hunger strike, cutting across party lines. A rare solidarity!
Big Scam Unfolds
There are reports of laundering Rs 2.25 crore by KLA after November 8. Students with PAN cards were deployed to exchange the demonetised currency notes after November, they allege. There are allegations of evading professional tax for the monies Lakshmi gets from anchoring. Then comes the land misuse. It speaks out the blatant violation of law and rules.
The 11.49 acre land belonged to PS Nataraja Pillai, finance minister in Thiru-Kochi before the formation of the Kerala State. His land was confiscated by Sir C.P. Rama Swamy Iyer, Divan of Thiruvithancore (Travancore) state in 1940s for his involvement in the freedom struggle. He refused to take it back after independence. Still, Pinarayi Vijayan, when asked about the takeover of the excess land possessed by KLA during a press conference, wondered saying which Pillai the land belonged to. He added that the land confiscated by Sir C.P. cannot be taken over by the government. The land was given to KLA on lease in 1968 by the then Agricultural Minister and senior CPI leader MN Govindan Nair during the regime of EMS government.
But, there was a condition: The Academy, registered as a charitable society, shall have the State Governor as the chief patron and CM of the state shall be the patron. Kerala State Ministers, judges of Kerala High Court, prominent lawyers, etc. shall be the board members. But what one sees is a family trust run by Narayanan Nair, KLA director and his brother and CPM leader Krishna Nair and other family members. University does not have any document of KLA’s affiliation. Land documents are also not available. The Rules do not permit charitable societies to use its property for any purpose other than the set goal and methods of it. But, here Narayanan Nair and his family members have constructed their houses to live. There are allegations of electricity and water connections
without the house numbers provided by the Municipal Corporation! A building is rented out for a bank. Lakshmi Nair runs a restaurant there. It is reported that hardly three acres are used for
college purposes, hence therefore the demand for the takeover of the
Reports suggest that Nair and family signed a joint venture with a builder who constructed a multistoried building with residential apartments in another KLA plot; most of the apartments have been sold out. Formerly, KLA’s research centre stood there. Still CPM is not for the takeover, thanks to the warm relation existing between Nair and family and CPM top brass!
KLA did not to sign the agreement with the government regarding the implementation of the direct payment to the private college teachers in 1971. Still Narayanan Nair & Co. could contest and win the Senate and Syndicate elections despite the rules! Narayanan Nair’s car bears the red number plate, which is a taboo for the private individuals. It misguides the people that KLA is a government organisation.
Now, reports suggest, the LLB degree of Lakshmi Nair and her cousin NK Jayakumar are not legally valid. Now, Syndicate enquires about it. A TV Channel claimed that they have documental evidence for the false information KLA submitted before the bar council for affiliation. The
allegation is about showing hiked
Treacherous Role of SFI
The students’ meeting with the education minister Prof Raveendranath was an utter failure. They were asked to accept the management’s agreement with SFI. The crucial KA Syndicate meeting held on February 6 accepted two contradictory letters, issued on the same date, by the management: One syndicate member said, principal abdicates the position. The second letter says she has been removed from the duties for 5 years and she would not work even as a faculty for 5 years! Students rejected it in view of the future legal implications.
The agitation took a new turn on February 7. The KLA campus and the whole Peroorkkada junction underwent tumultuous atmosphere from 2 PM onwards. ABVP worker Shimith climbed upon a tree with an ABVP flag with him. He threatened to jump down and commit suicide. His demand was the immediate resignation of Lakshmi Nair. Students did not permit the fire force and police to save him. They demanded an assurance from the government officials regarding three demands they had put forward: (1) Immediate arrest of Lakshmi Nair for Dalit atrocities (2) Impound Lakshmi Nair’s passport to prevent her from going abroad to evade legal actions (3) Cabinet should discuss the issue when it meets on February 8. Executive Magistrate and Sub-Collector Dr Divya S Iyer came and promised to convey their demand to their superiors. District Collector informed the students by 6 PM that Nair’s passport would be impounded immediately; other two demands would be communicated to the government. The authorities assured that there would not be any legal action against Shimith for the suicide bid. Then Shimith came down. Immediately two Congress workers tried to self-immolate pouring petrol on their body. The police used water cannon. People ran helter-skelter and Abdul Jabbar, a sympathiser of the studndents, fainted down and died. The same day students forcefully closed Lakshmi Nair’s illegal restaurant in the college campus. They tried to close the bank operating on the college campus since it is an illegal lease. ABVP called for a 48 hour education bandh in the state on February 8.
There were complaints against KLA since long. But, political parties, especially CPM, have been enjoying quota in its admission. CPM is always with Lakshmi Nair and Narayanan Nair. There are allegations that the internal marks and attendance were not a problem for this ‘elite’ students recommended by various parties. So, young leaders of both LDF and UDF combinations keep mum even though KLA is the hottest news item in media in the whole state. But, now the students dare to face channel cameras and assert that their Principal is a persona non grata.
Now, the one million dollar question is the reason for the soft corner Pinarayi Vijayan maintains for KLA, Lakshmi and her father. Obviously due to reasons mentioned above, it is alleged. His media advisor is the MD of the party channel. Lakshmi Nair has been the part and parcel of the channel for the last more than one and half decades. Famous media observer and CPI member Adv. Jayashankar says, Lakshmi Nair influences the CM through channel MD. And, Narayanan Nair and his brother and CPM leader Krishnan Nair have got excellent rapport with the CPM top leadership including the CM. Media reports celebrated the LLB education of the CPM party channel MD in KLA, again pertaining to attendance and internal marks. He immediately denied the allegation.
KLA Incidents not Isolated
The students of KLA were scared to raise their complaints against Lakshmi Nair until now. But, when two shocking incidents took place in two other self-financing institutions, a powerful emotional outburst surfaced in the student’s community of Kerala. In Toms Engineering College, Kottayam,
complaints were against torture the students undergo at the hands of the management. No warden in girls’ hostel, but, the chairman of the college visits there after 6 PM denying the girls’
privacy. Now, the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Kerala has ordered to close the college. The second was Nehru College, Thrissur where a student Jishnu Pranoy committed suicide. The reports suggest that
invigilator had accused him of cheating in the examination. Later on, it was found that the accusation was not right. Moreover, the students and Jishnu’s parents allege that there were flaws in the autopsy. Rohit Vemula’s mother was brought to Kochi for DYFI national conference. But, Jishnu’s mother, a former SFI worker, regrets, CM did not visit them. ABVP National Executive member KV Varundas staged a hunger strike in front of the chairman of the Nehru Group demanding immediate arrest of the culprits. n