THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The University College here on Friday witnessed unprecedented protests against the Students Federation of India (SFI) which has been accused of controlling the institution for decades with an iron first. The protests erupted after a student received stab wounds during an altercation over a petty issue allegedly involving members of the student outfit. An embarassed SFI leadership disbanded its unit in the college and promised an inquiry into the incident.
According to students who witnessed the incident, Akhil, a final year degree student, was pulled up by SFI activists for singing aloud in the campus. The altercation turned ugly and Akhil received stab wounds on his chest. Soon students, including a large number of girls, gathered in the campus and shouted slogans against the SFI college unit members. A few students also ransacked the office of the college union, controlled by SFI.
The students then sat near the college gate and shouted slogans against the SFI leadership. Later, they took out a march on MG Road demanding an end to the SFI’s ‘fascist’ style of functioning in the campus. Girl students came out openly against the student outift and narrated tales of intimidation and forceful extortion by SFI unit members in the campus.
“Is this democracy? Is this socialism? Leftist ideals have always attracted us. But what we see here is total fascism. Those who question the SFI leaders here are intimidated, verbally abused or beaten up,” said a girl student of the college who was part of the protest.
“If any SFI unit member is questioned, a dozen office bearers gang up and pounce on us. We are studying in an atmosphere of constant fear,” said another student.
Sensing the resentment of students, district leaders of the SFI arrived in the campus and assured the protesters that action would be taken against the unit members if found guilty. Following the assurance, the protesters dispersed from the campus.
Hotbed of unrest
Resentment has been brewing in the campus against the SFI unit after a girl student attempted suicide a couple of months ago. In her note written before the suicide attempt, she said her studies were disrupted due to political protests and violence in the campus. The girl later retraced her statement and secured admission in another college but the activities of SFI in the campus triggered a huge debate.
Meanwhile, Chandran, the father of Akhil told the media at the General Hospital that his son had complained of intimidation by SFI activists a few days ago and had expressed fear of being attacked very soon. The SFI leaders had questioned Akhil for singing aloud in the college canteen, Chandran said adding he had pleaded with them to spare his son.
Firefighting by SFI
SFI leadership, clearly wary of the fallout of the students’ protest, quickly disbanded the outfit’s unit in the college. While announcing the disciplinary action, SFI national president VP Sanu admitted there were some ‘problems’ regarding the functioning of the SFI unit in the camps.
SFI state president Vineesh VA said the student outfit will not protect any member who is found to be involved in violence. “There is no place for goons in SFI. If there are such elements, action will be taken against them,” he added.
The CPM's student wing has been on the backfoot after the image of the students union received a beating following the suicide attempt incident in University College. It is understood that the CPM, fresh from an electoral drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, prevailed upon the student outfit to rein in its members fearing a huge backlash from the public over the incident.