Kerala: On 48th day of strike, KR Narayanan film institute director resigns. Will students end their protest?

Students raised a slew of allegations against the director that include caste discrimination and undermining reservation norms in students’ admission process
Picture from the protest  (Pic: Sourced)
Picture from the protest (Pic: Sourced)

Amid criticism from various quarters over alleged caste discrimination, Shankar Mohan on Saturday, January 21 resigned as Director of KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, Kottayam.

He handed over his resignation to the office of the chief minister as the students’ agitation demanding his ouster completed 48 days, as stated in a report by The New Indian Express. Also, pressure has been mounting on the Left government over the undue delay in addressing the issue.

Chairman of the institute and veteran filmmaker, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who is also in the eye of the storm for his firm backing of Shankar, chose not to comment on the development. Meanwhile, there are indications that Adoor too may choose to part ways with the institute soon. When asked during TNIE’s Express Dialogues last week whether he was planning to end ties with the institute, Adoor indicated that it was just a matter of time. He had outrightly rejected allegations of caste discrimination in the institute.

Shankar, however, denied students’ protest having any connection with his resignation. “I decided to step down as I completed my tenure. I am the only director to have completed a full term in this institution,” Shankar told TNIE.

It’s learnt that Shankar chose to quit as the office of the higher education minister indicated that the government wanted him to quit without any further ado. Hours after he stepped down, the higher education department accepted his resignation and issued an order constituting a search committee to appoint a new director.

Students await government's response on other demands

Planning Board Vice-Chairman VK Ramachandran is the convener of the committee. Higher Education Minister R Bindu asked the students to end their agitation in the wake of the director’s resignation.

Though students welcomed the decision, they decided to continue the strike till they get formal communication from the authorities regarding Mohan’s resignation. “Apart from the director’s ouster, we raised 12 demands before the government to ensure a favourable atmosphere for the academic activities in the institute. We are awaiting the response of the government in this regard,” said Sreedev Suprakash, chairman of the students’ council.

A two-member commission led by K Jayakumar, appointed by the government to look into the issues, had submitted its report a week ago. The commission is learnt to have favoured the students’ allegations and was in favour of removing the director.

Students received support

Moreover, extending support to the students, prominent film directors and others in the film fraternity had also come out against Adoor, alleging he was protecting Mohan.

Taking these into consideration, the government made up its mind that the director should step down without delay. At the same time, it is learnt, CM Pinarayi Vijayan was keen that it should be done without hurting Adoor’s feelings. That’s why Shankan Mohan was allowed to quit.

Students raised a slew of allegations against Mohan that include caste discrimination and undermining reservation norms in students’ admission process. Following protests, the institute was shut down as per the direction of the district collector citing possible law and order issues.

Following this, students turned their protest into a new path and launched ‘Art of protest’, in which they resumed academic activities on their own through online and offline classes outside the campus while continuing their strike. They got tremendous support from the film fraternity with several film personalities coming up offering assistance to the students to continue their academic activities.

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