Published: 27th February 2020
Kerala HC order won't stop unions from harassing us: University College who attempted suicide over SFI harassment
On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court had banned student agitations that disrupt the functioning of educational institutions. Now, students can't be forced to protest too
On May 3, 2019, Nikhila, a then first-year BSc student in University College, Thiruvananthapuram had attempted suicide, owing to alleged harassment by the college's SFI unionists. She had then claimed that the SFI members would force her and other students into participating in marches and protests and that this had a negative impact on their academics.
Following around 20 petitions alleging similar events, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday banned protest activities that disrupt the normal functioning of educational institutions. The court also banned organisations from forcing students to take part in these activities. However, Nikhila believes that even this judgment isn't powerful enough to change the situation in University College. "Nobody, not even the government cares about what happens inside that college. This will make no difference," she says. However, she feels that a strong action from the administration would have prevented her from attempting suicide then.
Nikhila's suicide note had gone viral on social media, a few days after she tried to take her life. "You brutes will rot in hell for destroying my life. You'll soon see your sisters too kill themselves the way I did," she wrote in her suicide note. She tells us how it all began over a WhatsApp status, where she criticised the SFI for allegedly forcing the students to take part in a campaign supporting the Sabarimala verdict. "I was harassed a lot after this. I was threatened a lot of times. After a point, I couldn't take it and thought I'd end my life," she says.
She recalls how her life had changed since that day. "I lost a lot of friends after the incident. They feared that it may be dangerous for them if they kept in touch with me. There were a lot of rumours about me. My photograph too was widely circulated. For instance, once they went around circulating a WhatsApp message saying that I was an ABVP activist. I had complained against this to the Cyber Cell. But there was no response," says this 19-year-old.
"Student political parties are supposed to help students in solving issues with the administration and take a stand. But that wasn't the case there. The problem is, most of the student political organisations are under a major party. More than working towards students' issues, they work to propagate the mainstream party's agenda," she says.
She is no longer a student of University College. In her second year, Nikhila shifted to another college under the same university. "Initially I thought that I'll study in that college, come what may. I knew that it will be difficult. But even during the examinations, I was harassed by the SFI activists. I was told that that were talks going on to isolate me or label me as a mentally unstable person. I couldn't handle that toxicity anymore and wanted to concentrate on studies," she says. She adds that the case isn't the same in the college where she studies now. "Every student political organisation has its representation there. But they don't interrupt our studies," she says.
The political scenario of University College too has changed a lot over the past year. A couple of months into Nikhila's suicide attempt, an SFI member was accused of stabbing a comrade. After this, the college's SFI unit was disbanded and a new one was formed. Also, two other student political organisations — KSU and AISF also started their units there.
"The stabbing incident gained a lot of attention later. However, during my time, no such action was taken. I was never a part of any student political organisation," says Nikhila, unapologetically. "I don't believe in student politics. I go to college to study and I do not want anything to affect my academics. I never saw a student leader scale heights academically," she says.