Kerala Central University VC pays floral tribute to Sangh Parivar ‘martyrs’

Central University of Kerala vice-chancellor’s participation in a leadership orientation program, organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, has triggered a controversy in the university.

On April 30, the vice-chancellor H Venketeswaralu attended and spoke at the leadership program ‘Dishadarshan’ at Surabhi auditorium in Periya in Kasargod. The vice-chancellor reportedly offered floral tribute to the photos of Sangh Parivar activists who allegedly got killed in political clashes across the state.

Various student organisations in the university issued public statements criticising the vice chancellor’s biases towards the Hindutva student group.

Terming the incident as an attempt to saffronise the central university campus, Democratic Student Association stated: “What message is VC trying to give by paying homage to ABVP-RSS people who are dividing the country? The vice-chancellor paying his respect to the ABVP members cannot be sidelined as mere respect-giving. The people whom he was paying respect belong to Brahmanical Hindutva organisation, the RSS student wing.”

Another student organisation Fraternity Movement also issued a notice strongly condemning the VC’s participation in the leadership program. “The participation of a person at a higher authority and position of power in a program conducted by such a political movement gives validation to the politics of hatred put forward by the
Sangh Parivar,” it said.

Students Federation of India termed the incident as an act of solidarity and promotion of a particular organisation. “This is a highly condemnable act and it sends out messages that question the integrity of the position being held by the Vice-Chancellor. In the light of recent attacks in JNU at the hands of the goons of ABVP, the mere presence of Dr. H Venkateshwaralu in the program organised by ABVP is questionable and unacceptable”, the organisation’s university unit said in a statement.

In its statement, the National Students’ Union of India CUK unit alleged that the “vice-chancellor had found time for making speeches in a political arena while neglecting the athletics meet conducted by the university administration.”

“The vice chancellor’s action was contradictory to what he said to student organisations earlier. In April 2022, in an all-party meeting convened to discuss the restrictions imposed on beef and pork at a food festival planned by ABVP dominated student collective Society of Young Scientists, the VC had told student leaders that he will not entertain student organisation. Instead, he will only listen to acknowledged student bodies,” Rejaz M Sheeba Sydeek, second-year PG student at the university and DSA leader said to Maktoob.

Maktoob tried contacting the Vice Chancellor’s office for his response on May 5 and 6 respectively but no response was given. Story will be updated once we got the response.

Pro-Hindutva policies of CUK

This is not the first time the university administration faced criticism for their Sangh Parivar allegiance.

In March 2022, the university administration organised a round table conference of Vice-Chancellors across India on National Education Policy, in collaboration with the RSS affiliated educational body Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas.

The RSS-allied organisation’s secretary Atul Kothari delivered the key-note address in the conference.

In December 2021, Kasargod MP Congress’s Rajmohan Unnithan and Uduma MLA CH Kunhambu, elected
representatives of the area where the university was located, alleged that the university administration violated protocol by excluding them from the convocation ceremony held at the campus at which
the President of India was the chief guest.

Unnithan took to Facebook to criticise the university administration for “saffronising the convocation ceremony by involving only BJP leaders.”

Kunhambu wrote a letter to the vice-chancellor protesting the undemocratic behaviour.

As part of the 70th constitution day celebration, the University organised a two-day national conference on ‘Constitution and Democracy 70 years of Indian experience.’ Out of the seven sessions, three were taken by BJP sympathiser and former DGP TP Senkumar, BJP intellectual cell convener TG Mohandas and BJP mouthpiece JanamTV’s chief editor GK Suresh Babu respectively.

Calling out the university’s decision to invite guests with no relevant credentials, students organised a silent walkout protest during Mohandas’s session.

In September 2018, the university witnessed student protest over a series of disciplinary actions against students and teachers who are politically vocal. T Akhil, a student of international relations and
political science, got expelled by the registrar for posting a paragraph from his Malayalam story on Facebook post. The university administration alleged that the post contains filthy and abusive words
against the warden, registrar, and the vice-chancellor.

Associate professor of the University Dr. Prasad Pannian was suspended from the post of Head of Department of English and Comparative Literature over a Facebook post in support of Dalit Ph.D. scholar G Nagaraju, who got arrested for breaking the glass plane of a fire alarm in the hostel. According to reports, Nagaraju allegedly broke the glass panes in frustration over the delay in the fellowship money for many months. Ambedkar Student Association activist Nagaraju, who was a close friend of Rohith Vemula, was at the forefront of many student protests on the campus.

A circular issued by the university in March 2019, urging PhD students to select research topics “in accordance with the national priorities” and instructing the faculty to prepare “a shelf of projects to be taken for research study pertaining to their subjects considering national priorities.”

Following the circular, academician Dr. Meena T Pillai resigned from the board of studies of the institution saying that she cannot be part of an institution that is trying to impose a culture of fear on its students.

In another incident in May 2021, Dr. Gilbert Sebastian, Assistant Professor of the department of International Relations and Politics, was suspended by the Vice-Chancellor for allegedly mentioning RSS
as a proto-fascist organisation during one of his online lectures on “Fascism and Nazism.”

In another incident, Dr. Gilbert was given a show-cause notice for taking part in the Raj Bhavan march in May 2018 protesting the Gadchiroli encounter.

The Central University of Kerala, located at Thejaswini Hills in Periya in Kasargod, is one of the 15 central universities established under the Central Universities Act, 2009. The University offers 25 postgraduate courses and twenty-two research programs with a strength of around 2500 students.