A memorialised Facebook page of Jishnu Pranoy is adorned by quotes and photos about friendship. There are also photographs of Jishnu with his college friends, often in their uniforms smiling as they posed for the cameras. The same friends, ‘chunks’ as he called them, and a larger network of youth in Kerala are now waging an undeterred campaign on the streets and on social media days after Jishnu was found hanging in the bathroom of a college hostel.
Police maintain that Jishnu, 18, a first-year BTech (Computer Science) student of Nehru College of Engineering in Thrissur district, had committed suicide on January 6 after he was caught for malpractice during an examination. They say Jishnu was taken to the college office where he was warned that he would be debarred from the examination by authorities. The same day in the evening Jishnu is said to have committed suicide. College authorities have said Jishnu was simply told of the consequences of his action when he was brought to the vice-principal’s office the day he died.
But Jishnu’s classmates and students of the college are sticking to a different version. Multiple local media reports quoted students saying Jishnu’s ‘harassment’ began right from the examination hall when he was insulted by invigilator Praveen CP and later taken to the office of vice-principal KN Sakthivel. He was reportedly held up in the office for close to one-and-a-half hours where students and Jishnu’s parents fear he may have been physically assaulted. A reportedly harassed Jishnu came back to the hostel close to 6 pm where he was seen last by his classmates. Shortly later, he was found hanging and had even cut his nerves to confirm his death. Although he was rushed to the hospital by his friends, Jishnu passed away.
“My boy studies well. For five years at school, I used to be proud to take his name,” the student’s mother told Asianet News indicating that he could not have copied in an examination. When Education Minister C Raveendranath visited her in Kozhikode, weeping inconsolably she prayed no boy should go through what her son experienced in college.
#JusticeForJishnu has been trending on social media platforms in Kerala over the past week as enraged former and current students of the college protested as to what they called an act of ‘institutional murder.’ On Facebook, hundreds of people are leaving condolence messages sympathising with the students and family of Jishnu. The campaign has received considerable traction in the local media and even moderate success as the college management announced Thursday that three staff members including Shakthivel, Praveen and PRO Sanjith K Vishwanathan were suspended as part of an internal probe.
The death of Jishnu has also led to a ripple effect in the state with students coming out with horrific stories of torture and harassment at the hands of private college managements. Protest marches carried out by student wings of the three national parties BJP, Congress and the CPI(M) have resulted in violent clashes in campuses with police forces called to the spot. From religious bias against Muslim students to threats of intimidation and molestation of girl students in hostels, all kinds of complaints are now coming to the fore. The state government, sensing the public mood, has constituted a panel under the Education Minister to look into conditions at self-financing colleges. The APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, under which the college comes, has also appointed an ombudsman to look into grievance redressal in colleges affiliated to it.