Published: 05th March 2020
'Let Punjabi study in Punjab': Kerala college accused of discriminating against student who ended life
Jaspreet Singh, a III year BA Economics student in Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode committed suicide on March 1 and there has been a slew of protests that broke out since
On March 1, Jaspreet Singh, a III year BA Economics student in Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode committed suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan in his apartment. Even though Jaspreet did not write a suicide note, there were allegations that the student was not allowed to appear for the semester examinations, owing to an attendance shortage and this may have instigated the 21-year-old to take the drastic step. Hailing from Punjab, Jaspreet's family had moved to Kozhikode a few years back.
The university norms mandate that a student has to have at least 75 per cent attendance to appear for the examinations. However, Jaspreet only had an attendance of 68 per cent. While talking to The New Indian Express a day after the incident, the college's Principal Godwin Samraj D P said, "This is the third time that Jaspreet Singh is having attendance shortage and his chances to pay the condonation fee were over. The next possible solution is repeating the semester, which is not that unusual.”
However, the students had a different story to tell us. A friend of his who did not want to be named tells us that Jaspreet was always very studious and gave utmost importance to academics. "Jaspreet isn't someone who would intentionally miss classes. For him, studies always mattered the most. However, he had to go to his ancestral village Punjab for a cousin's wedding. Later his grandmother passed away and he had to extend the trip," he says. "Also, in this six-month-long semester, classes were held only for 110 hours. Despite that, he managed to secure 68 per cent attendance, which I think is a great thing," he adds.
He also tells us that Jaspreet's class teacher Biju Mathew was well aware of the happenings. "The teachers in this college tend to put rules ahead of everything else. Once, they even rejected my medical certificate and asked me to pay a condonation fee," he says. "It was difficult for someone like Jaspreet who never had a black mark," he adds.
Another collegemate of Jaspreet's who remembers him as someone who was quite friendly with everyone on campus, alleged that he had to face discrimination from the faculty, for being a Punjabi. "When Jaspreet's parents approached Biju Mathew with an explanation, he asked 'Why can't the Punjabi boy study in Punjab?'. He was quite an ambitious student who would never miss classes," he says.
Protesting against the college's norms, various student organisations in the college — SFI, KSU, MSF and Fraternity had conducted protests. The principal was gheraoed by the SFI and the KSU on Wednesday. "We have lodged a complaint seeking an inquiry, with the University of Calicut and the Kerala State Youth Commission," says DC Sarod, a member of the college's SFI unit. Alleging discrimination against Jaspreet, various Sikh organisations also conducted protests across the country. Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjnder Singh Sirsa wrote on Facebook, "This is the worst case of racial discrimination and we won’t tolerate it in any part of India or world. The college's affiliation must be taken back. We are filing a legal case on the college and would make sure that the Sikh student’s family is compensated for the loss of life of their son."