Dissent is a part of democracy, and protests are an extension of that dissent. However, does the government have any right to dictate in what form this dissent has to take? Well, in recent examples, the BJP government in the Centre has been telling the Farmers’ protestors that they are not real, and most of them are Khalistanis and other kinds of terrorists. While the CPM government in Kerala hasn’t gone so far, they have, however, taken a similar approach.
The prime example of that matter is the ongoing PSC movement in Kerala. Rank holders are protesting the backdoor appointments in the state, as well as the slew of regularisation of temporary employees. The rank holders — comprising of Last Grade Servants and Civil Police Officers — have been in front of the Secretariat for the past 24 days. Today, they were joined by the Nation Games medallists, who were promised jobs in the government sector. The protestors have been peacefully engaged in their movement, resorting to creative measures such as rolling on the asphalt, walking on all fours, and other symbolic gestures. Today, the medallists — men and women — joined the protest and shaved their head in protest. The protesters have decided to organise a hunger strike from today. The representatives of rank holders have said that they are even willing to discuss the matter with any government official who can solve the issue.
Yet, the government had made no move to connect with these protestors. There was an effort to talk with protestors via the DYFI, but it resulted in nothing. On Wednesday, DYFI leaders held a discussion with the Last Grade Servant candidates and DYFI state president S Satish said that a section of protestors wanted to end the strike. However, the candidates did not respond to the claim. The PSC rank holders even questioned why CPM’s youth organisation is handling the talks when it is a government matter. Moreover, the government has been trying to showcase that the opposition parties are trying to politicise the issue as well as turn it violent. This brings us to the events of today.
The protest organised by Kerala Students Union in support of the PSC rank holders’ protest in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram has turned violent. Thwarting the student organisation’s bid to enter the Secretariat premises, the police resorted to lathi-charge, tear gas, and water cannon to hold the protest. Several officers as well as a few protestors were injured in the clash. The LDF leaders are claiming that it is an effort to drum up votes for the UDF. The latter’s youth organisations have been protesting the matter in several locations in Kerala, and most of them has been dealt with using heavy force. Allegedly, male police attacked female protestors even when female officers were there in the background.
In another instance, activists of Youth Congress stormed into the senate hall at Kerala University where the interviewing for the post of a non-teaching staff was happening today. The activists alleged that interviewing for a post left to PSC was an effort to recruit a favourable candidate. Police arrested the activists, including women, who tried to enter the hall and interrupt the interview and they were forcefully removed from the venue. The interview continued after the removal of activists.
Meanwhile, an INTUC leader who pointed out the faults of the State Farming Corporation was forced to leave the venue. LDF leaders and officials of Farming Corporation removed Sudhir Malayil from the inauguration venue of a high-tech nursery in Pathanapuram. Sudhir’s mic was turned off when he criticised the organisation’s backdoor appointments and irregularities in the implementation of the project.
The government had stopped the regularisation of temporary employees, adding that they weren’t cancelling the previous recruits. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan clarified that regularisation would continue if the LDF is voted into power. This is despite large-scale protests happening throughout the state. This is eerily similar to the BJP government refusing to repeal the three farm laws despite nationwide protests. Moreover, the LDF government in Kerala has been silencing dissent in many forms, including in CM’s prestigious CM@ Campus project.
Reports from various sources indicated that higher government officials instructed campus authorities — especially Calicut University — to tell students to put forward suggestions instead of questions. A leading Malayalam news channel had received a voice note allegedly shared in a WhatsApp group that includes students and professors of the Calicut University. The voice note told students that they are not to ask questions, instead put forward recommendations regarding higher education and that too in writing. The voice note adds that students are especially discouraged from asking questions regarding the PSC association.
Meanwhile, Muslim Students Federation’s state president PK Navas has alleged that the selection of students to the event is a political affair. In an interview with a leading news media, he said, “A body, comprising of people favourable to the left government, selects 200 students for the event. Among them, only 20 are allowed to ask questions, which have been already pre-approved by the board. Such screening of questions is similar to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat.”
Moreover, the LDF had praised the DYFI and other left organisations for their “brave” efforts to “preserve democracy” in their fight against the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal. The left organisations were opposing the WB TMC government’s “illegal” and “irregular backdoor appointments” in the state. Moreover, Kerala's left leaders criticised Mamata for using heavy force against protestors “who were only exercising their right”.
The Kerala government refuses to admit fault with them, and so to divert attention, they blame the protestors for politicising a simple matter. They blame the opposition for making a mountain out of a molehill, despite doing the same in other states. The left government is stuck in a position where they have to either admit that they are in the wrong in West Bengal or Kerala.