hunger strike near the main entrance of the university since October 29. Mohanan has alleged years of discriminatory treatment and misuse of power by Kalarikkal.
Mohanan’s protest, which she has called a “fight against caste discrimination” at her institute, has attracted media attention and support from various corners. She has vowed to continue her hunger strike until Kalarikkal is expelled.
Dr. Sabu Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the university, said in a press release last week that he himself will replace Dr. Nandakumar Kalarikkal as the director of the International and Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN), a research institute under the university.
Mohanan, who is also a mother, has alleged that she could not progress with her research because of Kalarikkal’s hostile actions.
Mohanan joined the IIUCNN as an MPhil candidate in March 2011. After completing the course in April 2012, she joined the same department for a PhD two years later in 2014. Kalarikkal was joint director when Deepa joined the institute.
Mohanan said she began to face discrimination for being a member of the Dalit community soon after joining the university, i.e. in 2011.
Speaking to a few reputed news agencies Mohanan said, “I have not been able to do my studies smoothly for the last 10 years.”
Mohanan’s complaints against Kalarikkal include allegations that she was denied opportunities to do projects at other institutes, to use the institute’s facilities for her research works, that her MPhil thesis was rejected, that she was intimidated before others, and that there was refusal to process her MPhil degree certificate and transfer certificate within time.
Mohanan has also alleged that Kalarikkal even locked her once inside the Physics department, which houses the IIUCNN, in 2015.
In 2015, Mohanan had filed a complaint with the university administration against Kalarikkal. A two-member enquiry commission of the university was constituted to look into her complaints. The commission had confirmed Mohanan’s allegations against the director, and said, “Since Deepa had to face intimidation in the name of caste, the university should take steps to ensure justice for the student”.
The commission also said it found the director having failed in “providing Deepa with infrastructure and material required for her studies”, and recommended the university to take action, “according to university rules”, on this. The commission’s recommendations, which The Wire has seen, did not contain conspicuous direction for disciplinary action against the director.
However, Kalarikkal was briefly removed as the director of the IIUCNN following the commission’s recommendations, according to an earlier statement issued by Mohanan. But, he returned to the post soon.
Since then, Mohanan has raised her struggle with the Kerala high court, police and the state SC/ST Commission. However, alleges that she continued to face harassment and discrimination at the university.
In the press release issued on Saturday, VC Thomas said Mohanan did not submit her research progress report, which PhD students must mandatorily submit every six months, since she joined the course.
But Mohanan has said that this was not possible, considering that Kalarikkal was denying her access to the institute’s laboratory as well as to material required for her research – something the enquiry committee had confirmed in its report submitted on October 2015.