The attitude of college authorities towards boys and girls interacting with each other has kicked up a debate once again. Farook College, Kozhikode, one of the most famous colleges in Malabar, has become the subject of heated discussions by suspending some students for sitting together on a bench in the classroom.
The concern raised by those flaying the incident is that whether Kerala, which was once miles ahead of other states in the country in terms of social development and education, is going backwards to the dark ages. CPM leader and education expert T M Thomas Isaac MLA and Congress leader V T Balram MLA have taken strong stance against the action taken by the college. The issue is also the most discussed topic on the social media platform currently.
The college management had set up separate places for boys and girls to sit on the compound, but the decision was withdrawn following protests. However, principal E P Impichikkoya told Mathrubhumi that they could not stop the practices followed over several years and those who were not ready to accept them would be dismissed.
'The seating arrangements in the college canteen donated by former students are in such a way that boys and girls have to sit separately. The parents also prefer it that way,' the principal added.
A few days ago, the report of the committee led by Prof Meenakshi Gopinath, that studied the difficulties faced girl students on campuses, was released. The 15-member committee had found that there were screens between boys and girls in classrooms, and even separate exits and entrances. Though the report does not mention names, the students know which those colleges are. Vice-chancellors of various universities criticised the report, and now the situation in Farook College is out in the open.
Thomas Isaac MLA said that the students who were suspended for sitting on the same bench were the victims of conservatism. 'The Kerala society should seriously think how the college management could implement such a decision in this modern era. The college had witnessed similar incidents earlier and students, led by the SFI, had protested against them. The students are raising serious allegations against the college management. It is alleged that boys and girls are restricted from even presenting programmes such as group song and drama together. Those protesting against these barbaric decisions are targeted by the college authorities and the management. Isaac said in a Facebook post.
V T Balram MLA demanded that the Education Department should take strict action against the colleges that come up with such rules that are unacceptable to the modern society. 'There were reports about moral policing and forbidding boy-girl friendships from this college. Even if there are such rules in the college, it is not a justification. Autonomous and management institutions cannot do whatever they want. The Education Department should urgently intervene in the issue,' he posted on Facebook.
Recently, Pallikkoodam in Kottayam issued a directive that students should maintain a distance of at least one metre from each other. The school is run by none other than Mary Roy, mother of writer-activist Arundhati Roy and the one who fought a legal battle for equality in property rights for Syrian Christian women.
Several colleges, old and new, have placed 'screens' between boys and girls. How can this practice continue in a state like Kerala, where campuses used to actively involve in political and social matters?