Chasten SFI, end its campus tyranny

From political activism to sheer goondaism, the outfit’s turn is real and dangerous. It must be stopped.
SFI flags used for representational purposes only.
SFI flags used for representational purposes only.(File Photo)

There seems to be no end to the violence unleashed by the Students Federation of India (SFI) on educational campuses in Kerala. The latest two in a series of such incidents involving the student wing of the CPI(M) are an alleged assault on the principal of a college in Koyilandy, Kozhikode district following a dispute, and the reported torture of a leader of the Congress-affiliated Kerala Students Union in a hostel room at the Kariavattom campus of University of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram.

This February, a student of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Wayanad died by suicide after he was reportedly subjected to mob trial and torture by SFI members. In the Thiruvananthapuram incident, the attackers were led by the son of a former CPI(M) MP. Later, SFI workers even manhandled two Congress MLAs when they tried to protest. After the Koyilandy assault, an SFI leader issued a public threat to physically harm the principal.

Campus violence is not new in Kerala and the student wings of all political parties have a role in nurturing this culture. But SFI seems to be scaling up the aggression of late, encouraged and emboldened by the unwavering support of the parent party. The often-reported refusal or delay on the part of the police to book SFI and DYFI activists for violence underline this political patronage. While the latest incidents were widely condemned including by the CPI, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the CPI(M) chose to put up a strong defence, talking about conspiracies and efforts to destroy the student outfit.

SFI’s campus tyranny, especially its role in the Wayanad death, is said to have contributed to CPI(M)’s disastrous showing in the parliamentary elections. Yet, there seems to be no attempt at course correction. The unconditional patronage of the CPI(M), which has been in power in the state since 2016, has given SFI members a sense that they can get away with anything. From political activism to sheer goondaism, the outfit’s turn is real and dangerous. It must be stopped. While student politics has a significant role in a democracy, these outfits cannot be allowed to hold campuses to ransom. CPI(M), as a responsible party, must take it upon itself to correct its campus arm and drive some sense into its unruly members. Unchastened and disruptive, SFI is a burden for CPI(M).

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The New Indian Express