The Central University of Kerala in Kasaragod is in churn after the suspension of Prasad Pannian, the head of department of English and Comparative Literature, for a Facebook post condemning the treatment meted out to a dalit student. Research scholar Ganthoti Nagaraju was arrested and remanded to judicial custody for 14 days on charges of breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm cabinet in the hostel.
Full text of his Facebook post: “Ganthoti Nagaraju, one of our senior research scholars ( Dept of Linguistics, Central University of Kerala) and Dalit activist has been arrested and remanded to judicial custody for 14 days on charges of breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm cabinet in the hostel ( See the picture). That an act of misdemeanour has been criminalised is deeply disturbing. As far as I understand, this is a minor offence that should have been settled on the campus itself. Nagaraju lost his mother a few months back and has been going through severe mental stress and agony for the past few months. He has also not been receiving his fellowship for quite some time. It is extremely saddening to know that our student is lying on the cold floor of the prison cell on charges of breaking a glass pane. I strongly condemn this arrest and appeal to the authorities to secure the release of our student immediately.”
According to a report in The New Indian Express, after the incident, a suspension order was served to Pannian, which was leaked through WhatsApp groups. Sources close to Pannian said that they might adopt a legal recourse. Pro Vice Chancellor K. Jayaprasad said as student groups like the SFI were conducting protests on the campus, they would move High Court for police protection. The suspension form had claimed that he violated the CCS Conduct Rules 1964 adopted by the University vide Ordinance No 34, warranting disciplinary proceedings against him. “He has criticised the decisions of the University and published his comments in social media,” the letter claimed.
The decision to suspend of Pannian had led to widespread criticism. On social media, a group of over 30 writers and intellectuals, including K.P. Ramanunni and Sunil P. Elayidom, released a joint statement. “The silencing and incarceration of opposing voices continues. Most recently, at Kasargod Central University, Prasad Pannian, a professor who took a stand against the arbitrary decision to arrest a dalit student, G.Nagarajan for an apparently trivial issue is being penalized. Prasad had condemned the arrest and extended his support for the student in social media for which he has been removed from the post of the head of the department. The traders of hate think that they can imprison and thus silence the dalits, the rights activists and the democrats in this country. There is a combined effort to pull a progressive society back to centuries. If we want to remain the citizens of a democratic society, we should resist the fascist forces that are bent on the silencing of every opposing voice. We strongly condemn the action taken against Dr Prasad Pannian. We demand that the action is withdrawn with immediate effect.”