Bengaluru: A student agitation at a privately-run law school in the Kerala capital entered the 20th day on Monday, posing a headache for the state’s Left Front government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Apart from various opposition parties, Communist Party of India (CPI), which is part of the ruling coalition, and CPI(M) veteran V.S. Achuthanandan have backed students seeking resignation of Kerala Law Academy principal Lakshmi Nair, who they have accused of nepotism and harassment.
The Kerala University on Saturday barred Nair from supervising examination duties after a varsity panel investigating the matter said the allegations were grave. Students have accused Nair of using abusive language, harassment in their internal assessments and intrusive surveillance, among others. However, with Nair—who also hosts a cookery show on a television channel linked to the CPI(M) —refusing to quit, students have pressed on with the agitation.
Some of Kerala’s best-known political activists, bureaucrats and judges are among the alumni of the prestigious institute.
Achuthanandan has asked the government to intervene, while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader V. Muraleedharan is on a hunger strike demanding Nair’s resignation. On Monday, local MLA and Congress leader K. Muraleedharan said he too will go on a hunger strike if the issue is not resolved in two days.
Critics say the government is unwilling to step in since Nair’s uncle and former principal Koliyakode Krishnan Nair, was a three-time CPI(M) legislator and Narayanan Nair, and her father and the director of the trust which runs the academy was former district assistant secretary and leader of CPI.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Sunday met Narayanan Nair, his advocate son Nagarajan Narayanan and Krishnan Nair, but the discussions failed as the management stood by Nair. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Facebook post on Sunday touched upon the issue—he said a meeting of vice-chancellors will be convened next week to discuss unrest in self-financed colleges.
Meanwhile, the local police on Monday booked a case against Nair, under Sect 31 (s) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, based on a complaint by some students. Chief minister Vijayan also telephoned Narayanan Nair and asked for an immediate resolution.
Nair was not available on the phone for an immediate response but the academy’s legal advisor Nagarajan Narayanan said any government intervention will be challenged in the court. Notably, Nair has claimed that the academy is the only private college in Kerala where the salary of teachers are not paid by the government, keeping it off limits. However, A.A. Rahim, a Kerala University syndicate member belonging to CPM, said the academy possibly receives grants from the government like any other college. The government cannot turn a blind eye to such a powerful protest from students, he added.