Kerala: LDF, SFI Launch Protests Against Governor’s ‘Unlawful’ Intervention in Universities
“Universities are not the personal property of any individual. Down with Chancellorism,” reads the banner in front of University of Calicut put up by SFI.
Protests are growing against actions of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on his statements and actions on state-run universities. Recently, the Governor issued a show-cause notice to vice-chancellors (VC) of nine universities, asking them to step down.
In a press meeting held against the backdrop of the governor's notice demanding the resignation of the VCs, chief minister (CM) Pinarayi Vijayan accused him of trying to use the power he did not have and acting against the interests of the state.
The Students Federation of India (SFI) also began protest, starting with candlelight marches on campuses and putting up large university banners against the governor. The Left students’ organisation has called for the removal of the Governor from the post of Chancellor of the universities.
The state ministers for law and higher education have also accused the Governor of overstepping his role as Chancellor of the universities, a power provided by the state legislature.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) condemned the Governor's actions and announced a series of protest programmes. The state and national leadership of the Congress continue to be on different pages on the issue, with the state leadership supporting the governor's actions.
'ACTIONS AGAINST CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATES'
The CM addressed a press meeting countering the demand of the Governor seeking the resignation of the VCs. The governor demanded the resignation after a Supreme Court order set aside the appointment of the VC of Kerala Technological University (KTU). He even issued an ultimatum to resign before 11.30 pm on October 24.
The governor has issued a show cause notice to the VCs of Sree Narayana Guru Open University & Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology on October 25 in yet another provocative move.
The Governor's claims as the Chancellor of the universities have received strong objections from different quarters. The CM accused the governor's moves as political and accused him of acting like an RSS man.
"The governor/chancellor has no powers to dismiss or take action against the VCs. he cannot exercise the powers he does not possess," said Vijayan in the press meeting.
P Rajeev, the minister for industries and law, said that the position of Chancellor is statutory, unlike that of the governor, which is constitutional.
On the governor's allegation of appointing under-qualified persons as the VCs, the CM said, "The VC is the appointing authority. So, should the VCs resign?"
"The Governor has been working with a specific agenda against the elected government in the state. Those believing in the constitution have rejected the actions of the Governor. The people of Kerala together will defeat the evil intentions of the Governor," Vijayan said.
On the Governor issuing a warning to the ministers of withdrawing pleasure, the CM said, "As per the Constitution, the governor can appoint or remove a minister based on the recommendations of the CM. The governor has little understanding of withdrawing pleasure."
On October 24, the Governor met the press and claimed that he had not sacked the VCs but had suggested an ‘honourable exit’. The CM and the VCs rejected any such possibility. Earlier in the day, the governor accused certain journalists of being ‘party cadres’ and refused to answer the press. He even banned four media channels -- Kairali, Mediaone, Jaihind and Reporter TV --from entering his press meet.
The SFI has launched protests across the state. The SFI members took out candlelight protests and marches, condemning the governor's actions.
Candlelight protest and rallies were held in Calicut University campus, Kozhikode by SFI
VP Sanu, national president of the SFI, told NewsClick, "The governors in different states are acting in different manners. While in a few states, the governors ensure the swearing-in of BJP-led governments, the BJP is trying to disturb the elected government in Kerala through unconstitutional activities."
On the Governor's statement on the status of higher education in Kerala, Sanu said, "Higher education in the state is achieving new heights. Without understanding the achievements of the state, the governor is making misleading claims. The governor should not continue as the chancellor of the universities."
Earlier in 2021, Khan expressed his willingness to quit as Chancellor of the universities.
"The same governor is sitting on the Bills passed on the role of Governor in the universities. Let him sign all the pending Bills," Sanu said.
The Kerala state unit of SFI has called for continuous protests against the actions of the Governor in matters pertaining to the functioning of universities.
"SFI will hold protests in all district headquarters on October 26. In the protests held in the last two days, hundreds of students participated, condemning the governor for his interventions in higher education institutes. The teachers of the universities are joining the protests held by the SFI in different universities," PM Arsho, state secretary of SFI, told NewsClick.
LDF TO HOLD PROTEST, CONGRESS DIVIDED
The LDF has decided to hold rallies in all districts on October 25 and 26, followed by a mass protest in front of Raj Bhavan on November 15. The state secretaries of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] and Communist Party of India (CPI) accused the Governor of attempting to “saffronise” the campuses in Kerala.
The Congress remains a divided house on the issue. State president, K Sudhakaran and leader of the opposition VD Satheesan supported the decision of the Governor to issue notices to the VCs. But, another leader K Muraleedharan condemned the actions of the governor.
KC Venugopal, national general secretary of Congress, accused the Governor of violating federal principles.
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