Seeking ‘Justice for Jishnu Pranoy’ Movements surging ahead in Kerala

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Jishnu Pranoy, a first year engineering student of a self-financing institution, Nehru College of Engineering and Research, Pampady in Thrissur district, Kerala, was brutally tortured and murdered by the college authorities at the very outset of 2017 in January last. The frozen face of the seventeen year old boy with red marks of brutal atrocities not only shocked people of all walks of life in Kerala, it opened the lid of a can filled with vermin. It woke people up from slumber. Gagged student community of self financing institutions came out with the news of bestiality of this sort, one after another and demanded justice. They reverberated the mournful yet spirited voice of Jishnu’s mother, Mahija, from a far off village of Northern Kerala, who had stopped taking solid food for three months since her son’s murder. As the bereaved mother  came to the state capital, her trembling voice and tears turned into a challenge to the system that creates victims like Jishnu,  a challenge powerful enough to question the deaf rulers and rouse the mute onlookers. The psyche of Kerala was shaken. It was evident from the welcome she got from the police of CPI(M) led state government. Unnerved at the protest gathering momentum, they assaulted the mother in broad daylight, dumbfounding people of Kerala by their heartless cruelty. Mahija pronounced unequivocally that the entire society stood for the justice, which she had demanded. Her fervour for uncompromising struggle for justice tore open the mask of the CPI(M)  masquerading as Marxists.

As customary, immediately after Jishnu’s death the police tried to frame it as a suicide. The management, too, accused Jishnu of having committed some malpractices in examination, got caught and then took to suicide out of frustration. But this time, tide turned otherwise. Students of Nehru College as well as family members refused to gulp this cooked up story. Overcoming fear, Jishnu’s friends disclosed the brutal deeds practised by the college authorities in the name of discipline. They gave evidences to prove that his was a heinous murder for he used to protest against the authorities. The authorities maintained a lock-up room in the campus to torture students physically. Jishnu was called to this room and was brutally thrashed for complaining against the violation of university laws in the conduction of examination. High officials like Chairman of Nehru Group of Institutions, the Vice Principal, the PRO, a Faculty member and the Examination co-ordinator, all were accused of direct involvement in the murder.  Instead of taking proper action against these culprits the police and the government tried to dilute the case. The clout of the self financing educational lobbies was exposed. Our party SUCI(C),  the student wing AIDSO as well as the Kerala unit of the All India Save Education Committee came out with all seriousness to bring open that it was the self financing system  and  their clout with the government- administration- police nexus, that produced victims like Jishnu in the Nehru College as also in other institutions. To meet the challenge, a general action platform was formed at the joint initiative of AISEC Kerala, AIDSO and Nehru College Students Association. It was the first of its kind of students organizations in these institutions where the authorities impose strict bans on any organized protest. Nehru College Students Association launched a Samarakendram (Protest Pandal) in front of the college gate on 11 February  demanding arrest of the murderers and democratization of the campus. A series of programmes were undertaken. Common people, political leaders and intellectuals extended whole hearted support to the movement. All student organizations except SFI extended solidarity to the students association. They themselves opened pandals. Jishnu’s family declared to join the movement soon. The programme got wide media attention  too. The SFI tried, albeit unsuccessfully,  to bring disunity among students opening their own pandal and demanding reopening of college.  On 15 February the District Collector initiated a discussion between students and management on the basis of a memorandum of seventeen demands. Except the arrest of the murderers all other demands were accepted, with the Collector  promising early arrest of the culprits. Meanwhile, Jishnu’s mother Mahija wrote an open letter seeking justice for her son to  Shri Pinarai Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala. She made it clear that theirs was a CPI(M) family, herself a former SFI activist and Jishnu, too, active in SFI and DYFI. She lamented with pain that the CM never  cared to visit Jishnu’s house. Naturally the letter created a stir in the society, though the CM remained indifferent. On the contrary, the Chairman of the Nehru Group of Institutions and the Vice-Principal managed to get  anticipatory bail; the other three were not arrested. So Mahija and Jishnu’s family filed many complaints and visited CM at Secretariat on  8 March.  To support the family’s movement, our Party organized a Jishnu Solidarity Forum in Thiruvananthapuram with Comrade Shajarkhan as the convener, adopting different programmes. As Mahija and her family decided for an indefinite hunger strike, the DG of Police assured that the culprits would be either arrested or their property confiscated within one week. As usual they went back upon their assurance and on 5 April the family came to Thiruvananthapuram to start the hunger strike in front of the DGP office. At their request Comrades Shajarkhan, S.Mini and S. Sreekumar and students of Nehru College  accompanied them. Police attacked the group brutally and Mahija was badly injured. They arrested the family, friends, the comrades M. Shajarkhan, S.Mini, S.Sreekumar and a social activist, K.M.Shajahan. People reacted strongly against the police action against a bereaved mother and her family and the police was forced to release them. But the social activists including three of our comrades were remanded under serious charges including conspiracy, for aiding the family in their struggle for justice. Our Party condemned the conspiracy of the government, police administration and the  self-financing educational lobbies. Defying all efforts of the government and the police including their false propaganda, Jishnu’s family continued their hunger strike on hospital bed. Avishna, fifteen year old sister of Jishnu, started indefinite hunger strike in her home, where people stood around her house to resist police action.

Since 5 April our Party organized protest marches all around the state against the police action and demanding justice for Jishnu. On 6 April the Party called for Hartal , general strike, along with a protest march inaugurated by Comrade K.K.Rema, leader of RMPI. On 7 April Protest Pandals were started and squatting launched in front of the secretariat as well as in every district. On 9 April the state government sent the Political Secretary to CM, Public Prosecutor and State Attorney General for a dialogue as mediators to Mahija and family who were admitted in Medical College Hospital, Trivandrum. Meanwhile Sakthivel, the Vice-Principal accused of Jishnu case was arrested. The mediators along with Jishnu’s family finally announced the agreement in front of media on the immediate arrest of the culprits and unconditional release of our comrades. The family withdrew the hunger strike, but soon it was clear that the government had once again betrayed. Protest aroused from all corners of the state. Our Party intensified struggle. A huge march to the Secretariat was organized under the banner of Jishnu Solidarity Forum. On 11 April our comrades got bail who were received by so many public personalities and media in front of the District Jail. The Party called for relentless sustained struggle against the treacherous and murderous  self- financing system.

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