Kerala Varma College students agitate as administration refuses to extend hostel curfew, despite HC order​

The students were told by the management that they can rework on the rules only after a meeting with the parents. The HC says that the students are adults and can take their own decisions
This is the first time that a large number of students in this college have come together, without any political backing (pic: Salmath KS)
This is the first time that a large number of students in this college have come together, without any political backing (pic: Salmath KS)

On February 20, 2019, the Kerala High Court rapped the regressive rules and curfew hours in the Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur's, women's hostel and asked the college to discuss with students and set a reasonable in-time. But a month down the line, the college has still not conducted the meeting with the students to decide the new curfew hours. While the management says that they will rework the timing only after a meeting with the parents (PTA), around 100 women hostellers staged a strike against the management, on the college premises. 

The strike was borne out of frustration and anger at the delayed justice, "As soon as the judgment was out, we met the principal and asked her to implement the order and conduct a meeting with the students. That's all we wanted. But she said that they'll take a decision only after a discussion with our parents," says Salmath KS, a III Year BA Political Science student. 

When the students opposed this, the principal apparently told them that she will meet them the coming Monday. Except, students were aware that she was apparently retiring on Friday, March 22. "At first, we were told that the management has no clue about the judgment," says Salmath. "The principal then told us that she cannot take any decision without parental consent since our parents accompanied us on our first day in college," she adds. We accessed an audio recording of the conversation, where the principal is heard saying the same. "I care about your fundamental rights. But we can't rework the timings without your parents' consent," she says. We tried contacting the principal Dr Krishnakumari for a comment about the issue, but we were told that she was busy with her retirement party. 

Every day, right after the last lecture got over, every woman hosteller of Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur would rush to their hostel rooms. All that they cared about then was to get to their rooms before 4.30pm. They couldn't afford to be late by even a minute, as that would end up in the wardens calling their parents and forcing them to write a series of apology letters. "We were allowed to go out only on Tuesdays,  Thursdays and Saturdays and had to be back by 6.30 pm. That too, we had to state in writing where we were going. If you're late and if you're a person who's vocal about the college and critical of its policies, your parents are called and made up stories about you are told to them. After 4.30, the usual curfew hour, you can't even go to the library, which is on the same campus. The library, by the way, closes at 3.45 pm," says Salmath. The students have also asked the management to extend the library hours along with the curfew hours.

Fed up with the regressive curfew and other rules that prohibited them from taking part in political meetings, going out in the evening or watching movies without the warden's permission, a former student, Anjitha K Jose, had filed a petition in the Kerala High Court. The petition yielded a positive response and on February 21, the court ruled in Anjitha's favour. It said that every citizen has the right to have their own political views as part of the Constitutional Freedom of Expression and no college can deny its students that. It also added the college can fix the timing for students to return in the evening, but that timing should be reasonable, after a discussion with the students.

"For the past two nights and today, the students have been protesting. On the first day, the warden and a professor from the Political Science department told them that they will come to a decision after speaking to the management as soon as possible. But they kept on saying that they had to have a meeting with the parents before fixing a new curfew time," said Anjitha.

(With inputs from Prajanma Das)

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