With the SFI discredited in the wake of the stabbing incident and what is now termed the question paper scandal, the KSU has summoned up the courage to start a unit at the University College in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district on Monday. It is after 18 years that the KSU has opened a unit on the campus where the SFI lords unchallenged.
A 10-member team with Amal Chandran as president and Arya S Nair as vice-president has been formed. Other members are: S Achuth (secretary), Aiswarya Joseph (joint secretary), and Amal (treasurer). The Youth Congress also took out an aggressive march to the Secretariat on Monday, both in protest against SFI's alleged high-handedness in University College and also in solidarity with KSU leaders fasting in front of the Secretariat.
Forming a unit is the easy part. Holding on is the challenge. In 2001, when K Muraleedharan was KPCC president, an attempt was made to revive the KSU in University College. Then, too, it began as a 10-member team.
This KSU re-entry into University College was in response to the infamous 'chappa kuthu' incident; a KSU leader in another college was taken inside University College, roughed up, turned on his belly and on his bare back was scored the words 'SFI' using the pointed tip of a knife.
“That incident had angered us and we were determined to start a KSU unit in University College,” K Muraleedharan MP said. The unit was inaugurated with much fanfare but the students were but left to fend for themselves. It was also the period, the early 2000s, when the Karunakaran-Antony rivalry was at its peak.
Since the Congress leaders were busy fighting each other, none bothered about the plight of the members of the new KSU unit in University College. They were subjected to some severe brutality and the unit was disbanded in less than a year. Not a single KSU nomination was filed for the college union elections that year.
“The KSU students were beaten up badly and we were not able to pay attention to them,” Muraleedharan sounded regretful. “The party was then plagued by serious internal differences,” he said.
A R Nishad, the former KSU leader on whose skin the words SFI were carved, said the future of the latest KSU unit would depend on the support the parent party and the Youth Congress would extend to the KSU members in the college.
“If the SFI continues with its violent ways, I am doubtful whether even this KSU unit will last long,” Nishad said. “The KSU students can deal with the SFI threats inside the campus. But it is difficult to handle the threats and violence unleashed by the SFI and their goons outside the campus. They used to come to our houses and intimidate even family members,” Nishad said. He is concerned that once the current crisis settled down and the media looks away, the SFI would get back to its menacing ways.
Nishad, who was then the KSU general secretary of Nilamel College, is now a member of the KPCC's campaign committee. According to him, he was made a target by the SFI because he was one of the two KSU members in the college union headed by the SFI in Nilamel College.
Congress leader Saratchandra Prasad, whose initiative it was to revive KSU in 2001, said that the party could not push the KSU boys beyond a point 18 years before. “These students had met me and told me why it was difficult to continue. Not only were they being beaten up but anyone willing to join the KSU were also being threatened. Some were even beaten up. As if all this violence was not enough, the teachers too started calling up the parents of the students and advised them to keep their children away from politics,” Prasad said. “I too feared something might happen to them and so I did not force them to carry on. Like the CPM, we cannot make martyrs out of our students,” he said.
When the KSU was briefly revived in 2001, it had been dysfunctional for the last 15 years. In 1986, the KSU had secured one seat, that of a councillor. “The SFI was so shaken by the victory that they unleashed brutal violence on KSU members. After that we could not function in University College,” said Saratchandra Prasad, who was then the KSU state president.
K Muraleedharan, now an MP, said that the Congress party was now serious about giving all possible protection to KSU students.