Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy on Wednesday, November 1, 2023 announced that, as the Pro-Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), he would be boycotting its convocation on Thursday, November 2, 2023 since Governor R.N. Ravi has refused to consent to a proposal for the university to award an honorary doctorate to freedom fighter and veteran Communist leader N. Sankaraiah (CPI-M) despite repeated requests.
Addressing journalists in Chennai, he pointed out that the Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the university, has refused to grant approval despite the Senate and the Syndicate of MKU passing resolutions twice to award ‘Honoris Causa’, the honorary doctorate, to 102-year-old Sankaraiah.
Moreover, the Minister said he requested the Governor twice to approve of this request. The Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of MKU also visited Raj Bhavan to personally request Governor’s approval for this, he added.
Mr. Ponmudy said the power to confer ‘Honoris Causa’ vests with the Senate as per the MKU Act of 1965, and the Governor did not have any power over this decision. An earlier statement by Mr. Ponmudy on this issue said that the Governor-Chancellor’s signature was, however, required in the degree certificate. The Governor is also expected to award the degree, as the person presiding over the convocation.
No reasons given
Mr. Ponmudy said the Governor has not given any reason for his refusal to award the degree to a deserving person like Mr. Sankaraiah.
The Minister recalled that the leader had been jailed for five years for participating in the freedom struggle when he was in his final year of under-graduation at American College in Madurai. The leader was jailed for another four years for his struggle towards social justice and economic equality, he added. He further pointed out that the leader had donated, for people’s welfare the ₹25 lakh cash given to him as part of the ‘Thagaisal Thamizhar’ award, by the present Tamil Nadu government.
Alleging that the Governor was making false accusations against the present State government claiming that it was not respecting freedom fighters, he said if the Governor truly respected freedom fighters he should have awarded the honorary doctorate to Mr. Sankaraiah.
Mr. Ponmudy further alleged that the only reason one could infer for the Governor’s refusal, was that the latter did not truly respect freedom fighters or like anyone who voiced their opinion for economic equality, social justice or the ‘Dravidian model’ of governance.
Accusing the Governor of acting as an agent of the BJP and the RSS, he alleged that the RSS never respected freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi. Blaming the Governor for trying to defame the Tamil Nadu government through “lies,” he said the public, however, clearly understood Mr. Ravi’s his agenda.
The CPI(M) has welcomed Mr. Ponmudy’s decision to boycott the convocation. In a statement, party State secretary K. Balakrishnan said no individual was more powerful than an elected government and his party would hold a black flag protest against the Governor.