The death of Computer Science student Jishnu Pranoy, following alleged harassment by his college, has triggered a chain reaction in Kerala. Hundreds of students have now come out to share the horrific tales of torture and harassment in the state’s self-financed colleges.
Jishnu was allegedly harassed by the college authorities for purported malpractices during an examination. His friends say that he was forced to cancel out his answer sheets and was "mentally tortured" for something he did not do.
Importantly, the office of the Technical University Exam Controller has said that it has not received any complaint of copying from the college. As per the rules, the exam controller has to be informed about any instance of copying.
This is not the first time educational institutions across Kerala have made headlines for unreasonably harsh punishments, draconian dress codes, bizarre rules and harassment by the management.
Jishnu's case seems to have opened a Pandora's box. Students, with their faces covered, have appeared on local channels revealing cases of harassment and rampant physical and mental torture.
The Quint spoke to several students who made similar shocking claims.
You can ask any student and he will tell you about the torture room in the college. A friend of mine was taken to this room and brutally beaten up by the so-called disciplinary officers during a cultural festival. He came to my room and cried the whole night. His only fault was that he used to talk to a girl who was our batchmate. There is an undeclared ban on girls and boys meting on campus.Arun M, Ex-Student, Jawaharlal College of Engineering and Technology
Arun M also spoke about fines being imposed for frivolous reasons.
If we scribbled something on a desk, the whole class had to pay a fine. If something in college was damaged by an unknown person, the whole college had to cough up. I paid a fine for the colour of my shirt, for participating in cultural festival, for making noise in class.
There are rules that forbid students from participating in political or union activities, protests and dharnas. Students are also barred from expressing their opinion about the college and its style of functioning. A simple re-tweet, like or sharing of a social media post can translate into trouble for pupils.
This is happening almost everywhere in South of India. I have studied at CMS, Namakkal in Erode. Similar things happen there. The so-called called torture rooms, no right to say anything about the food, no permission to take leaves, for everything there is a fine. The government must take action against these institutes (sic).Subin Abraham on Change.org
Despite robust social indicators and the highest rate of literacy, Kerala often makes the news for incidents of moral policing, honour killing and instances reflecting patriarchal mind-sets. The thriving self-financed colleges have been turned into virtual prisons, students allege.
I am an ex-student and I do know how they torture students. The entire four-year period is a battle in itself. Students can’t speak up as they are blackmailed with internal marks, fines, threats of being debarred from exams etc. When you pass out you just hate the place for ruining the most beautiful and golden years of your college life.Shankar NP at Change.org
All in the Name of Discipline
- In 2013, a college in Kerala allegedly fines a student with Rs 50 for laughing
- In 2015, a boy was suspended for questioning a rule against boys and girls sitting together
- In February 2016, a student was suspended for marrying outside her religion
- In December 2016, five students were arrested for painting graffiti that depicted Malayalam poetry
- Dress codes are a norm and girls are not allowed to wear leggings, tight tops & jeans
- A few colleges have separate seating and staircases for boys and girls
- Some even barred students from participating in protests against Jishnu’s death
Kerala has a large number of NRI students who are living away from their families. While the student community has protested the abusive ecosystem, parents support the strict rules that violate the human rights of pupils.
What we want is the recognition of the rights of the students and recognition of students as adult citizens of the country once they have attained the age of 18. We also believe that like Nirbhaya became a symbol of atrocities against women, Jishnu is a symbol of human rights violations happening against students across the country.Arjun PK, Justice-For-Jishnu petitioner on Change.org
It is time both the youth and others in Kerala come together to oppose the arbitrary and archaic rules that seem to be governing private colleges in the state.
Video editor: Sandeep Suman