Bengaluru: Colleges in Kerala have turned into places of torture, according to a report by former Kerala High Court Justice (retd) P.K. Shamsuddin that has been submitted to the state governor and the Chief Minister’s Office. The report reveals that several colleges and universities have “torture rooms” for students who do not fall in line with the directives of student political parties or unions, in particular the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), student wing of ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The rooms are actually offices allotted to the student unions to hold meetings and discussions. However, according to the Shamsuddin commission’s report, depositions by several students, alumni and faculty in colleges and universities across the state reveal that torture takes place there.
Speaking to ThePrint, Shamsuddin said not only does his report expose the dark underbelly of student unions in Kerala, but also the nexus between them and a section of faculty members, who turn a blind eye to cases of assault and torture.
“These incidents take place largely in government-run colleges. One student union does not permit others to function in colleges. In the torture rooms, these leaders mentally and physically harass those students who do not involve themselves in their activities,” he said, adding that a large number of complaints were against the SFI.
“Even amongst the teachers, there are many who support the Left-wing parties, and when a case of torture is reported, they do not take action against it.”
After a detailed investigation, Shamsuddin found that several unlawful activities, including assault, detention, violent attacks and moral policing have been reported from these “torture rooms”.
Why a probe was constituted
Investigations into these allegations began after Akhil, an SFI member, was stabbed in the chest after a falling-out with other party members in July this year. He had reportedly refused to fall in line when a group of SFI leaders asked him to stop singing while he and his friends were relaxing under a tree.
The Shamsuddin commission said “assault or torture rooms” existed in several government colleges, such as the University College, Government Arts College, MG College (all in Thiruvananthapuram), Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, and Government College Madappally in Kozhikode.
The commission observed that the SFI controls these colleges, and does not let students from other parties contest elections or participate in events organised by others.
Calling it a violation of human rights, Shamsuddin has given several recommendations to the state authorities, including a state-level redressal forum to be set up on priority, as well as an ombudsman system at the colleges.
Not the first time
Five years ago, R.V. Rajesh, then chairman of the Kerala Youth Commission, had also alleged the existence of such rooms.
Rajesh, a Kerala Congress leader, had said individuals would be confined to these rooms, beaten up, brutally assaulted, or even attacked with weapons.
“In 2014, several students from the University College had approached me and spoken about how they were being forced to attend protests. They told me how they were assaulted by the police, the undemocratic way elections were being held,” Rajesh said.
“It stopped for a while due to the media attention it generated. Now, it has come back. There have been several cases of moral policing which have gone unreported.”
SFI calls it political ploy by Congress
The SFI has rejected the Shamsuddin report’s findings outright, and called it a political ploy by the Congress to defame it. The student party has denied the existence of any such rooms from where such attacks have been reported.
“How many people have they interviewed before submitting this report? This is nothing but a politically-motivated move initiated by the Kerala Students’ Union (a founding arm of the Congress-affiliated National Students’ Union of India) and the Congress,” V.A. Vineesh, the SFI’s state president, told ThePrint.
“Many of our student activists have been attacked by the NSUI, but why has that not been spoken about? This commission report is an eyewash and we will not adhere to anything that the commission says. We don’t need to.”
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