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Politics? Shhh! It's a dirty word in Kerala colleges

George Iype in Kochi | July 18, 2003 20:07 IST
Last Updated: July 18, 2003 20:08 IST

Politics in many of Kerala's church-run colleges is now officially being inked as a dirty word.

A recent high court order allowed college managements to prohibit students from undertaking or participating in political activities within campuses.

But student unions of major political parties such as the Congress and the Communist Party of India--Marxist say they will appeal against the order in the Supreme Court as it is against the fundamental rights.

At least a dozen colleges run by the church have already enforced the May 26 order saying student politics have often disrupted studies and led to violence and killings.

More colleges across the state are in the process of banning politics.

The influential Inter-Church Council for Education -- an apex union of various Christian educational managements in Kerala -- has also written to all the colleges run by it to forbid politics in colleges.

"We no longer want colleges to allow students' unions to fight elections on political lines. We feel banning politics on campus would improve the quality of education and reduce the various forms of violence perpetuated by students in colleges," ICCE chairperson Archbishop Joseph Powathil of Changanassery told rediff.com.

"Kerala has suffered a lot because of violent students' politics," he adds.

The unprecedented court judgment came after a student -- Sajan Francis -- filed a case against the church-run St Thomas College principal Father M M Mathew for preventing him from writing his second year degree examinations in April 2002 on account of inadequate attendance.

Francis claimed the principal was vindictive toward him on account of his being a Student Federation of India activist. The SFI is the student wing of the CPI-M.

His petition, supported by the SFI, also asked for a compensation of Rs 25,000 from the principal for the loss of one academic year.

But the court rejected Francis' petition and ruled the St Thomas College has the powers to enforce a ban on political activities of students.

"It is open to the educational institutions to prohibit political activities within the college campuses and forbid students from organising or attending meeting other than the official ones within the college campus," the court declared.

"A restriction does not violate the rights such as freedom of speech and expression, freedom to form associations or unions under the Constitution of India," the judgment said.

Educationists say the ban was long overdue. Sabu Thomas told rediff.com that since 1970 some 43 students have died due to violence instigated by campus politics.

To be precise, he adds, SFI lost 30 activists, Kerala Students' Union lost 10 and the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad lost three students. The ABVP is the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

"A ban on campus politics will improve the quality of education. Let colleges be places of students' intellectual growth, not of political violence," he says.

But SFI Kerala unit president P K Biju disagrees.

Termed the verdict as 'cruel and undemocratic', he says, "It is in colleges that students who shape their careers, whether it is in politics or any other fields. If politics is banned in colleges, where will you get competent and visionary politicians for the future India?"

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