Kozhikode: Kerala government on December 6 appointed renowned dancer and activist Mallika Sarabhai as the chancellor of Keralal Kalamandalam Deemed-to-be University in Thrissur. The appointment comes amidst the tussle between the governor and the government on various issues related to the universities. Last month, the LDF government removed Arif Mohammed Khan as chancellor of Kalamandalam by an executive order. It has moved the University Laws (Amendment) Bill to remove him from the post of chancellor in other state universities as well.
The appointment of Mallika Sarabhai is politically significant for two reasons. One, the government claims that it wants to improve the academic performance of universities in the state. This appointment will help to mitigate criticism of government control over higher education institutions in the state. Two, the stature of Mallika as a fighter against the Narendra Modi regime and her impeccable credentials in the field of art.
In an e-mail interview with Mathrubhumi.com, Mallika Sarabhai spoke about her appointment as Kalamandalam chancellor.
Did the government tell you how they zeroed in on you for the post?
I have no idea how I was selected. I got a call from a dear friend who used to be an LDF minister, with a message from the CM. I am honoured to accept it and was overwhelmed.
You hail from Anakkara Vadakkath Tharavadu which is a matriarchal home to many illustrious daughters of India. What are your memories of Kerala and Anakkara?
I am a very proud daughter of Vadakath and hope that in my life I will continue fighting for truth and justice like the other women of my family. I spent many summers there as a child and still love to visit there.
How are you going to improve Kalamandalam? Do you have any plans already?
How can I have plans before I understand where the institution is today, who is there, what are their aspirationsand if a new contemporary vision is required? I must do a lot of homework before even beginning to formulate anything.
Is art a tool of social reformation for you? If so, will it reflect in Kalamandalam's future journey?
I hope so. In today’s hate-filled and anaemic world, art can heal . But art cannot and must not become merely an entertainment form or a museum piece. We must constantly adapt to the fast changing world by keeping the core andt making it more relevant, accessible and attractive for today.
How do you respond to MoS V Muraleedharan’s criticism that your only qualification for the post is that you are a bete noire of Modi?
He has every right to have a view and so do I.
What's your opinion on the governor's role as university chancellor?
Governors as chancellors are always political and they cannot have commitments to academic excellence. That is a ceremonial role. I believe that I have been brought here for decoration!
Sexism, patriarchy, and Hindutva are getting hold of institutions across India. What's your take on that?
I would have been blind not to have seen it. As long as we can, we must stand shoulder to shoulder and shout from the rooftops to stop it.