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BJP seeks to make political issue out of demonstration against Dalit prof

Dr T N Sarasu, who retired on March 31 after 27 years of service, was greeted with a “symbolic burial” on her last day.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthpuram |
April 14, 2016 1:34:48 am

A demonstration against a Dalit principal the day she retired from Government Victoria College, Palakkad, is turning into a political issue in Kerala, with the BJP taking up her cause against the Left Front.

Dr T N Sarasu, who retired on March 31 after 27 years of service, was greeted with a “symbolic burial” on her last day. An earthen tomb was raised with a wreath and flower petals on it, and a strip of paper on the mud grave reading “End of the old saga of 27 years”. Dr Sarasu, who had been principal at the college for a year, complained to the police, who have registered a case against four members of the SFI, the CPM’s student wing.

The BJP, which is fighting a triangular contest in Palakkad constituency, has taken it up as a Dalit issue. Last Saturday, Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy met the Dalit professor and reportedly extended support, promising to take up the issue in Parliament.

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Sarasu told The Indian Express she was not raising the issue as an attack on a Dalit. “I was shocked to see students had given me a symbolic burial on my retirement day,” she said.

Sarasu, who used to be a member of the Left-affiliated teachers union for 10 years, later got into a tussle with the SFI and the CPM-affiliated Association of Kerala Government College Teachers (AKGCT) in the Palakkad college.

“They wouldn’t allow us to conduct any academic activity in the college,” she said. “In February, we planned to conduct an internal exam for first-year students. Left-affiliated teachers objected, saying they had no time to evaluate the papers, but later agreed to go with the decision. However, when the exams started, SFI men stormed classrooms and disrupted the exams, tearing up question papers. The exams had to be abandoned.”

Also read | Kerala: On retirement day, ‘grave’ greets college principal

When the college wanted to take action against SFI students, she said, Left-affiliated teachers objected. She accused the SFI of “highhandedness” in government colleges, saying that once it wins a college union, its members would start dictating terms to the principal. Other students’ unions cannot grow in a campus controlled by the SFI, she said, and alleged that there also are teachers who don’t stand up when the national anthem is sung.

AKGCT president Prof K K Damodaran said teachers have never used students for furthering their interests. “Prof Sarasu wants to blame someone,” he said. “We sympathise with her. We teachers do not t indulge in politics as local politicians. Our unions are engaged only in the minimum of trade union activity.”

He said some teachers had protested against a delay in disbursal of salary and alleged that Prof Sarasu had complained to the police against those teachers.

The SFI’s Palakkad district president, S Swaroop, said although members of the organisation are facing a case for insulting the teacher by raising a tomb, they were not involved in it. “It is true that we had issues with Prof Sarasu. However, we would not have resorted to such an act.” He said he suspected Sangh Parivar organisations might have had a role in the protest to upset the CPM’s prospects.

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