'Boys, girls should not share bench'

Minister in row
Last Updated 17 November 2015, 19:17 IST

Kerala Education Minister and senior Indian Union Muslim League leader P K Abdu Rabb courted controversy on Tuesday when he voiced opposition to boy and girl students sharing benches in class.

The minister’s statement came in response to reporters’ queries on the alleged gender segregation in Farook College in Kozhikode.

“My personal view is that boys and girls should not be sitting next to each other in class.

It’s okay if they sit on separate chairs… as far as I know, there are no colleges in the state where boys and girls sit next to each other on benches,” the minister told reporters here. Abdu Rabb said the opinion was not connected to gender segregation and as long as individual college managements and students don’t have an issue, boys and girls could share bench space.

Last month, management of Farook College, an autonomous institution run by a Muslim management, had suspended Dinu K, a first year Sociology student, for sharing a bench with girls.

Nine boys and girls were reported to the college management over the incident. While others were allowed back into the class after they tendered an apology, Dinu refused to budge and said the rule involved gross gender segregation.

 Later, the high court stayed his suspension.

Protests against the college administration also failed to gather steam after many students in the college distanced themselves from the stir. The minister’s statement has triggered strong responses from students’ organisations. Students Federation of India (SFI) state secretary T P Bineesh said the statement pointed to rising forms of regression in the state.

“We can’t limit the reach of these developments within college campuses; they impact the society in general. It’s disappointing to see the minister himself acting as moral police here,” Bineesh, whose organisation is affiliated with the CPM, told Deccan Herald.

V S Joy, president of the ruling Congress party-affiliated Kerala Students Union (KSU) said a formal request has been moved to Rabb, seeking withdrawal of the statement.
 “College campuses should be nurturing inclusiveness. KSU will fight all attempts to impose such restrictions,” Joy said.

Meanwhile, students in Maharaja’s College in Kochi on Tuesday launched an agitation against alleged gender segregation in the campus.

(Published 17 November 2015, 19:17 IST)

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