KOTTAYAM: After 48 days of continuous protests, students at KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts finally heaved a sigh of relief on Saturday. Their protest succeeded with the resignation of institute director Shankar Mohan, which was one of their main demands.
As many as 82 students belonging to two batches of the institute had launched an indefinite strike on December 5, 2022, as various issues that had been boiling over for more than a year reached a flashpoint. The predominant issue raised by students was the inhumane treatment on the part of Shankar Mohan, the outgoing director of the institute, towards the students and staff and discriminating them on the basis of caste. Mohan was also alleged of forcing the cleaning staff of the institute to do domestic chores at his official residence.
The students also alleged Mohan flouted reservation norms to deny admission to a Dalit students in the 2023 batch. The protest got wide attention when students staged protests at the venue of International Film Festival of Kerala held from December 8 to 15 in Thiruvananthapuram. This drew wide support from the film fraternity. Following this, Higher Education Minister R Bindu deputed a team of senior officials of the Directorate of College Education to study the issues raised by the students. While the team was about to submit its report, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan constituted a two-member commission consisting of K Jayakumar, former chief secretary and Dr N K Jayakumar, former vice chancellor of National University of Advanced Legal Studies, to look into the issue.
When the government shut down the institute citing possible law and order issues in view of the strike, people from the film fraternity, including director Rajeev Ravi, Ashiq Abu, Sanju Surendran, Jeo Baby, Krishnendu Kalesh and Kamal K M came down to the institute extending their support.
However, things took a major turn when institute chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan rubbished the allegations against Mohan in an interview given to the TNIE as part of its Express Dialogues series. As the protest was brewing in the film fraternity against Adoor over his stance protecting Mohan, the two-member commission also submitted its report in favour of students. This put pressure on the govt to initiate steps to settle the issue. Guarding Adoor from critics, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPM politburo member M A Baby declared open support to the veteran filmmaker and made a provision for a ‘decent’ exit for Mohan.
Taking into account the mounting protest in the matter, the resignation appears to have given a breather for both Adoor and the LDF government at least for the time being.