Leaving Kerala’s Opposition Left Democratic Front red-faced, former diplomat and vice-chairman of the state’s higher education council T P Sreenivasan was today assaulted by SFI activists during a protest.
As a group of policemen watched, Sreenivasan was targeted at the venue of the Global Education Summit, which the CPI(M)’s students wing had threatened to disrupt, claiming that it would “accelerate the commercialisation of higher education”. The SFI has been staging a sit-in in front of a hotel at Kovalam where the two-day summit is being held.
On Friday, a group of SFI activists manhandled Sreenivasan as he came out of the hotel to receive guests. The 71-year-old fell down after SFI district joint secretary Sarath hit him on the face in the presence of policemen.
“(The) attack on me which many witnessed on TV was to get Global Education Meet cancelled at any cost. I was not badly hurt and meet is going well,” Sreenivasan said later in a tweet.
While Sreenivasan blamed police for failing to act, CPI(M) district secretary Kadakampally Surendran apologised for the incident and promised that action would be taken against those guilty. Surendran, however, alleged that there was a “conspiracy behind the police inaction”.
CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, however, said the party did not consider Sreenivasan as an academic expert and alleged that the Congress-led UDF government had appointed him to “commercialise the education sector”.
While several political and cultural leaders deplored the attack, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the incident was “an insult to the state”.
“The SFI should not have spoiled an international education event attended by several academicians. It is a disservice to the younger generation,” he said.
Sreenivasan, a 37-year foreign service veteran, was India’s ambassador to Austria and Slovenia, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Vienna). Earlier, he had served as Deputy Chief of Mission at Washington, High Commissioner to Kenya, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations (New York), and Ambassador to Fiji and south Pacific Island countries.
A speaker of Japanese and Russian, Sreenivasan also served as a member of the National Security Advisory Board.