The demonstration by Students’ Federation of India (SFI) was part of a statewide education strike organised by the SFI, where they voiced concerns over recent nominations made by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan to the Senate and Syndicate of Kerala University.
The SFI alleges that the Governor, in his role as the Chancellor of state universities, is appointing individuals affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), aiming to convert universities into Sangh Parivar centers. The protesters specifically pointed to the appointment of RSS functionaries in various state universities and raised objections to the recent appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor for Kannur University.
The march took place as part of broader protests against what the SFI perceives as attempts to influence academic institutions with a specific ideological agenda. The students’ group is also demanding the resignation of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan in response to these alleged appointments and the perceived saffronisation of the higher education sector in the state. The developments reflect growing tensions over the politicisation of educational appointments in Kerala.
Even though more than 300 police personnel and a rapid response team had been deployed, the violent SFI men were seen trying to barge to Raj Bhavan.
It was a pity that SFI men levelled allegations against the governor, as the people of the state have been watching the nepotism and pro-party favouritism the CPM has been practising since they took over in 2016. A lot of appointments of teachers to government colleges and even the position of vice chancellor came before the court. Some of them were blocked by the judiciary. Recently, the Supreme Court cancelled the reappointment of Dr Gopinath Raveendranathan as the Vice Chancellor of Kannur Varsity, whose tenure expired in 2021.
Now, governor has now appointed Dr Biju Nandan in Gopinath’s position. Supreme Court had ruled that the Governor had reappointed Gopinath Raveendran under pressure. Governor Arif Mohammed Khan told the media men that ‘CM’s officials pressurised him’. He asked the CM to ensure transparency. He said, Surpeme Court has made position clear.
The Supreme Court (SC) verdict of November 30, 2023, cancelling the reappointment of Kannur Varsity Vice Chancellor Dr. R. Gopinath Raveendran, was from the bench presided over by Justice DY Chandrachud, the Honourable Chief Justice of Bharat. The verdict came out after the legal fights prolonged for two years which started in November 2021.
During the hearing, the Court asked the state government if a person over the age of 60 could be reappointed as VC. Apparently, Kannur University Rules do not permit the appointment of VC if the appointee is over 60. SC ruled that Governor, as the appointment authority, was under external pressure. He, in his capacity of Chancellor of the universities, should enjoy the power to appoint VC.
Reacting to the verdict, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan told reporters that he was under pressure from the government for the reappointment. CM’s legal advisor and personal secretary met him at Raj Bhavan and pressurised for the appointment. When he pointed out the legal hindrance in the matter, a paper, said to be the favourable opinion of Advocate General, was presented before him; Governor pointed out that it was unsigned; then a signed document was brought. Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister R. Bindu reportedly sent a letter to the Governor in this respect. Since Governor did not agree, Chief Minister himself visited Governor and said that Kannur Varsity belonged to his constituency and his home district as well, therefore, he wanted Gopinath Raveendran to be reappointed. When the controversy picked up those days, Governor had revealed these incidents before the media.
Apparently, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala had moved Lokayuktha, alleging that R. Bindu’s interference was not proper, a misuse of power, and a violation of oath of office. But Lokayukta Chief Justice Cyriac Joseph rejected Chennithala’s petition. He stated that it cannot be construed as the misuse of power, and there was nothing wrong in proposing a name in her capacity as the Pro Chancellor.
There were allegations about the appointment of Priya Varghese, wife of CM’s private secretary, in Kannur Varsity as the Associate Professor in Malayalam Department. Another allegation came up from Calicut Varsity. It was regarding the appointment of the wife of CPM leader A.N. Shamseer, the present Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Last year SC had cancelled the appointment of Dr. M.S. Rajasree as the VC of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU). Still, the government of Kerala did not bother to comply with the UGC rules.
Still, SFI ‘find’ saffronisation in the appointments Governor does. It looks like deliberate camouflage; a carefully orchestrated plan to deviate the public attention from the faults of CPM, their ‘big brothers’.
No surprise, CPM State Secretary M.V. Govindan alleges that ‘Sangh parivar’ installs its ‘oracles’ in Supreme Court. He said ‘RSS, ABVP and Sangh parivar’ men are appointed in High Courts and Supreme Court. He undoubtedly believes the ‘greatness of judiciary would not last long in the country’.
Political observers say, this is a blatant attack on judiciary and its impartiality. Govindan brings his political means to the seats of judiciary. Again, the idea is the same as that of SFI: To camouflage his party’s faults. He once again highlights the CPM method to be more Goebbelsian than the real Goebbels.