A Kerala college has found itself in the middle of a political turmoil after a campaign spearheaded by the student union triggered a political clash between groups, which left two injured including a disabled Dalit student.
While the intention of the poster campaign was aimed at eliminating gender discrimination, it led to the college campus being divided with students and teachers taking offence to the printed material.
On March 8, on the occasion of Women’s Day, the student union of Kuriakose Elias College at Mannanam in Kottayam district, put up posters on campus with the intention to put an end gender discrimination.
The Student Federation of India (SFI)-led union of the college chose to “redefine” slang considered derogatory and offensive to women with menstruation, vagina and rape being the dominant subjects in the posters.
Photo courtesy: Deshabhimani
“Pooru (Vagina) is not a derogatory word, but is what we have come from. It has a history of wounds and immense pain,” reads one poster.
“If God has closed the doors of temples to menstruating women, then he is anti-women,” reads another.
“My vagina (Yoni), a lifeless, moist part of my body. They attacked it, chopped it and set it ablaze,” reads yet another poster.
However, all hell broke loose, when the student union’s attempt to “empower” women backfired. The women’s forum of the college took objection to the “obscene” words used in several of the posters.
Speaking to The News Minute, Brigit Paul, convener of women’s forum says that many words used in the posters were derogatory in nature and defamed women.
“We raised objection to the posters when we came across several words that are not fit to be used in a civilized society. However, one must understand that the teachers’ objection to the posters and the political turn that it took are two different issues,” Brigit notes.
On Friday, a protest carried out by Kerala Students’ Union (KSU) and Youth Congress members against the posters turned violent when SFI activists attempted to prevent the march. Hours later, SFI Kottayam district president KM Arun and MG university student Sachu were hacked by four persons.
The Gandhinagar police told The News Minute that four members belonging to a quotation gang (contract criminals) have been charged under section 308 of IPC (Attempt to commit culpable homicide). While they have been remanded to judicial custody, the police is yet to identify the motive of the crime.
Arun and Sachu, who sustained injuries, continue to receive treatment at Kottayam Medical College Hospital. Speaking to a Malayalam daily, Sachu, a Dalit student and disabled at birth, alleged that the attackers hacked at his right arm despite his pleas.
Pinning the blame on the KSU members, SFI students alleged that the Congress-affiliated student outfit has destroyed the life of a Dalit student.
“This shows the anti-Dalit sentiment of KSU and Youth Congress members. Sachu, who comes from an economically backward family, will not be able to appear for his semester examinations owing to his injuries,” SFI state President Vijin told TNM.
However, the Left leader chose to distance himself from the poster campaign held at KE College.
“No doubt the college has an SFI union, but they did not discuss the campaign idea with any of the district or state committee members. Though we agree with their views on menstruation and are against the establishments that restrict the entry of menstruating women to temples, the students did go overboard using certain derogatory terms in the posters. Such words are far from being acceptable. They used some non-offensive terms also, but did not have to use derogatory words to describe a female body part,” Vijin observes.
The SFI state president added that an internal inquiry will be carried out to assess the facts of the case.
When asked by the SFI was shying away from taking responsibility for the campaign, termed “progressive” by its own union, SFI general secretary (Kottayam) Rijesh K Babu says, “In every college, there are students who are well aware of their politics and then there are teachers who do the same. In this case, we admit that the student union has offended a certain section of women students, but the teachers, who have their own political ideologies, have politicized the issue.”
Meanwhile, KSU representatives say they will proceed legally against SFI members involved in putting up the derogatory posters.
“Since this is an issue that concerns women, we have approached the Mahila Congress, who will discuss the matter and take the necessary legal course,” KSU President Jobin said.
Despite repeated attempts, KE College Principal Benny Thottananiyil was unable for comment.