By Ashraf Padanna/Gulf Times Correspondent/Thiruvananthapuram
Student activists in Kerala yesterday attacked distinguished diplomat T P Sreenivasan while protesting against the state government’s ‘commercialisation’ of education by allowing in foreign universities.
Sreenivasan fell to the ground from the impact of a slap by a student leader as he was walking up to the venue of the Global Education Meet in Kovalam near Thiruvananthapuram after his car was blocked. Students Federation of India (SFI) district secretary Sarat assaulted Sreenivasan as he walked through a small crowd who manhandled him and stood among the police officers stationed there.
Sreenivasan claimed no police officer came to his rescue as he walked through a hostile crowd and was about to return from the venue when the leader slapped him in the face.
Sreenivasan, 72, who was India’s permanent representative to the UN, currently heads the Higher Educational Council appointed by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to rescue the state’s ailing higher education sector.
“I went there with my wife (Lekha Sreenivasan), and they stopped my car. I sent my wife back and they started attacking me when somebody in the crowd called my name,” he said. “I told them I wanted to greet the delegates who arrived on my invitation. But they didn’t allow me. So I thought of going to my friend’s house nearby and was waiting among the policemen when someone hit me.”
The GEM was conducted by the council to forge international tie-ups to improve the education sector in the state, and several foreign delegates are attending the three-day event. The student wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist had vowed to stop the event at any cost.
“Pained at how my father is treated in our home state even when he is working so hard to reform the education sector. Sickened more by the police who stood there and watched. But knowing him, he’ll consider it as just another day at the office,” his journalist son Sree Sreenivasan wrote on Facebook.
“(He) was attacked by thuggish protesters at an educational conference he’s organising. I spoke to him, and he’s all right now and is carrying on with the conference. Those of you who know Kerala and India won’t be surprised that “student leaders” in many circles are lifetime politicians who are part of big-time political parties.”
“(The SFI) is upset at some of the efforts to reform higher education by my dad. Instead of debating issues in a civilised way, these goons would rather manhandle their opponents.
“My dad and mom, who retired to Kerala in 2004, instead of Delhi or elsewhere after diplomatic decades away, have dedicated themselves to their home state and its people. They established the Kerala International Center and Karuna Charities, which does exceptional work for the needy. This is the thank you they get”.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was among the many leaders who condemned the attack while the CPI-M local leaders have apologised to Sreenivasan. However, the party’s senior leader Pinarayi Vijayan, who is widely seen as the party’s face in the state elections due this summer, criticised him.
“Outraged by the attack on @sreeniv by Communist goons in Kovalam. Sad2c students incapable of argument, only of violence,” tweeted Congress leader Dr Shashi Tharoor, former under-secretary general of the UN.
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