Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Strike at NIT Calicut of 11 Nov 1983

There was a strike or student unrest at REC-Calicut in november 1983 . How can I forget this event ? It was the first time I was witness to such an incident in the first place and was a mute witness to the happenings all around with no power to change the course of events which were not to my approval to say the least. But this event has had far reaching consequences on NIT-Calicut and the student populace.

Dr. S U Pillai had just taken over as the Principal and our batch was in the third semester and classes had just begun and the junior batch had joined and some of my batch mates were booked in a ragging case and suspended for an year ,which was not taken kindly by our batch which expressed solidarity with the suspended students ;some of them who claimed to be innocent and with the principal on the other side with an iron fist to stamp out this menace called ragging in any form however miniscule. This was a stand-off and a compromise seemed unforthcoming and elusive. The date was 08 of November 1983.

The hostels wore a look of a nation at war with several parleys and meetings among various students and student bodies and some of them using the oppurtunity to visit the ladies hostels to discuss the matter and get an opinion of the women folk as a matter of tradition and some of them over did it visiting the ladies hostel more than a dozen times sometimes at odd hours. But there is a serious problem at hand and every one understood the gravity of the situation and the seriousnes attatched in not letting their brotheren down in their hour of crisis.

Mr. Bopaiah Chowdhury a softspoken gentleman being the leader of the union suddenly found himself catapulted to centre stage and was in a confusion as to what should be done and could feel the push and pull from all directions. Should there be a strike or shouldnt there be one ? Many of us did not know what a strike meant in the first place and possibly the mild mannered leader of the union too didnt ;who seemed to me a very studious lad suddenly forced into pretending to be a political strategist. By 12 in the night it was decided that students would go on a strike.

The hostels of NIT at that time had a special facility in a public address system. Speakers were tied to trees with a control room in the C hostel with a microphone ; a grammaphone and an amplifier. They were traditionally used to play songs and music every evening for about an hour with a signature tune played at the onset and the end of the one hour duration. Any one passing the way would register a song he would like to hear which was played. The formula followed was three malayalam songs followed by two hindi songs and a song in any other language.

On this night suddenly the signature tune was played at mid-night and there was pin drop silence in every quarter. The mood was as if a newly sworn in prime minister was going to address the nation. The leader of the union made it official and passed his decree and announced that there would be a strike with effect from the moment until the orders of suspension were not withdrawn.For all practical purposes it meant no attending classes.
9 th and 10th of November 1983 went without any incident with columns of students walking through the various corridors shouting slogans most of them directed at the Principal. But there was an important happenning on the 10th afternoon with police entering the campus for the first time and whisking away some students who had the principal in a gherao. Things began to get more murkier complicated and serious. I was given special instructions from home not to fish in troubled waters and would simply not be a party to obstructive activities.

The above event triggered hostilities even further. On the 11 th of November 1983 students as usual were in a procession with the Principal in the middle floor of the Departmental Building surrounded by a cauldron of police. Some aggressive students of the lot tried to attack the principal and order was given for a lathi charge and hell was let loose. I was standing near the library and could view the lathi charge and I rushed into the A hostel and therafter to my room in the B hostel. I could see pitched battles between students and the police from my room. News paper reporters sensed trouble and reached the place going around taking photographs of injured students in the lathi charge. Some of the injured were being carried to the hostels and being interviewed. Many of them had a good number of their bones broken and could barely walk having felt the intensity of kerala police in full fury.

The local police handed over the case to the CRPF whose vehicles encircled REC Calicut. The time must have been around 2:00 in the afternoon announcing on the microphone asking students to vacate the hostels within an hour. I was in the mess and on return found my room locked. When I went about searching for my room mates one of them happenned to open up a small part of the door dislogding the plywood making just enough space for a person to enter and exit. I entered through this crevice and collected all the immediate possessions that would be needed and proceeded to the bus stop and so did many in the hostels.

Students went haywire with many of them not knowing where to proceed. I had a local guardian in Capt. K T Sreenivasan and there I went. Captain asked me what transpired. He contacted the CI of Medical college police station Mr. Vijayaraghavan and introduced me to him and told me not to bother . On the 12th of November 1983 in the morning my father landed up at the place and was glad to see that I was secure. The same day with my father I revisited to hostels to collect my remaining belongings from my room making way through the crevice and exiting through it.

The institute remained closed for about a month and a half and reopened in january 1984 the movie Manchali of Sanjeev Kumar shown on the first day of our return. Note that all the students convicted did not have therir suspensions withdrawn but had to undergo the sentence.

Such incidents should never form the part of any education process. They must be prevented . Students must always be monitored and disciplined in preventive ways so that they do not lead to awkward situations which would need defanitive solutions and bringing the police to maintain order should be the least of the prerogatives at any cost

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