Sankar Mohan, Director of K R Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science & Arts Film Institute under the Department of Higher Education, Kerala Government (KRN Film Institute), resigned on January 21, thanks to the student protests and agitations against the blatant caste discrimination under his regime.
SC/ST students are denied the education benefits they are entitled to. Reports suggest that Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Chairman of the Institute and a world-famous filmmaker, is likely to resign soon. He is alleged to have tried to protect Sankar Mohan from the controversies and students’ wrath. The resignation has come close on the heels of K Jayakumar Commission’s report that students’ complaint regarding caste discrimination was right.
Students and employees had raised 13 charges against Sankar Mohan, including blatant caste discrimination, sabotage of reservation rules, etc. They have been demanding action against the Director who allegedly maligned even the goodwill of the former President of Bharath late Dr K R Narayanan. Director’s resignation has occurred on the 48th day of the student agitation.
The incidents that led to Sankar Mohan’s resignation occurred in a state where CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) rule. CPM and its coalition partners have been talking on top their voice that they do not believe in religion and caste. The Commission’s report vindicates the allegations of the students and the employees. It is a heavy blow to both the LDF regime and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. The Commission consists of former Chief Secretary K Jayakumar and former Legislature Assembly Secretary N K Jayakumar.
That students and employees had to suffer caste discrimination is a serious issue. It is alleged that cleaners, especially those who belong to ‘reservation communities’ in the Institute, are always deployed for the household duties of the Director. The agitators have demanded to publish the enquiry reports pertaining to caste discrimination. They maintain even though Director Sankar Mohan has resigned, their agitation would continue until reports are published, and strict actions are taken. K Jayakumar-led enquiry commission’s report had been submitted before the Government several days ago.
Serious allegations had been levelled against Sankar Mohan on November 25, 2022. Employees of the Institute were asked to do the household duties for the Director. Another allegation was the rule set by the Director for a compulsory shower of the employees before they enter his home premises for household duties. Three sweepers, including 32-year-old woman complainant, were recruited in February on a daily wage basis. Those sweepers had to carry an extra pair of clothes when they went to Director’s house for household duties; they had to have wash in the outdoor washroom before they start work. It is reported that an employee in the administrative section had submitted a complaint before the Chief Minister of a similar grievance. But it fell on deaf ears. But the government was keen to protect the Director hence his resignation was a setback to the government.
When the students took a stand that they would not give up their agitation until Director quits, the government assigned Chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan to protect Sankar Mohan. But, it led to further controversies and Institute was closed. The government appointed two enquiry commissions; the idea was an eye wash to pacify the students and to protect the Director. As the enquiry reports were not as the government wished, Sankar Mohan had no alternative but to resign. But, the Director comes out with a strange sort of argument: ‘Three year tenure was over and a further one year extension was over too hence the resignation’. But, students were not the takers. They are aware of a government order that Sankar Mohan can continue until the new Director takes over. They say, ‘they are ready to turn “Rohit Vemula” if that is what Government of Kerala (GoK) wants’.
Therefore, students say that Director’s resignation would not stop their agitation. They allege that CPM and LDF are supporting caste discrimination. They will fight until solutions come up to all issues they have raised. BJP, ABVP and several other organisations have come forward to support them.