ABVP activists and police clash, crude explosives hurled and college property damaged

A set of students and outsiders, suspected to be Akhila Bharata Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists and their sympathisers, went on a rampage at Mahatma Gandhi College here on Monday, hurling crude explosives, damaging college property and targeting the offices and vehicles of teachers and staff.

Several students and a few staff members sustained minor injuries in the incident, according to the police. The violence started around 10.30 a.m. with a group of anonymous persons hurling a petrol bomb in front of the college gates.

The explosion was immediately followed by a spree of violence inside the campus, which culminated in a confrontation between the ABVP activists and the police.

Use of batons

The police swung batons to disperse the students and detained 10 of them. They were yet to finalise the charges against the detainees. An official said some of those detained could be innocent. The police were verifying their complicity in the crime.

Scores of freshers and their guardians, who were at the college to complete their admission process, were witness to the reportedly wanton violence.

The chain of events, which resulted in Monday’s campus violence, had begun in April when MG College principal Sudheendran Kidangoor objected to the ABVP college unit collecting money in the name of the student’s union from first- and second-year degree students to organise an “evening farewell party” for final-year students inside the campus on April 15.

The police said the principal’s objection was on the ground that the college was closed for vacation and that the function could be allowed only during the day and that too under strict supervision of the college authorities. Moreover, the elected student union’s tenure had ended.

In a related development, the Kerala Women’s Commission launched an enquiry on its own after it came to know that some student activists had detained a girl student for over seven hours in one of the rooms they frequently used for union and political activities.

The Commission’s move put immense pressure on the college management, and the principal ordered his staff to take control of the rooms allegedly appropriated by the ABVP activists. The police said teachers found scores of wooden staffs and iron rods in the three rooms.

The principal also objected to the activists collecting money from students in the name of the college management, to hold a festival in the name of a religious seer. The programme never took place. The NSS management wrote to the principal asking him not to allow any person or organisation to use the college’s name for fund raising. The police said a set of students vandalised the notice board on which the management’s decision was put up for public perusal. In July, the college authorities moved the High Court and procured an order securing police protection to “keep at bay” political activity that could potentially disrupt the institution’s peaceful academic climate.

Following this, the college council and its disciplinary committee dismissed a few students, after serving them and their guardian’s explanation notices, on the ground that they eroded the college’s peaceful atmosphere.

The dismissal of students led to a series of attacks against the council and committee members, including teachers, staff and also security men. Miscreants hurled bombs at the house of a teacher and damaged his car last week. The principal and his family also received anonymous threats.

A member of the college management said some of the activities of the student’s union bordered on ragging. They allowed no other political outfit to function on the campus. Sympathisers of other political parties were often hounded and terrorised.

The activists held impromptu trials in front of the rooms they once controlled and meted out corporal punishment to students who refused to attend their party programmes.

The police have been deployed in strength on the college campus to prevent any further escalation of violence and thwart any attempt at sabotage. They have extended protection to the houses of the principal and other senior staff members. The NSS is scheduled to hold a meeting at the college on Wednesday to form a people’s front, including local opinion makers, traders, its unit members, and former students, to protect the institution from further acts of vandalism. The police have registered cases of rioting, use of explosives and attack on uniformed men in connection with the incident.