Meet Dr V Thankamani – a bold professor and Head of the Department of Biotechnology of Kerala University, who had the guts to fight the might of unruly communist inside the Kerala University campus. Hope the victory to her will inspire more people to fight against the rampant politicization of various campuses by CPI(M) and its allies. Here is an interview she gave to “Scaling New Heights”
Let me start from the events that happened with the Governor reinstating you as the Head of the Department (HoD) of Biotechnology Department of Kerala University. Who gave you the news that Governor reinstated you back as HOD and what did you feel when you heard that news?
It was my husband Mr. M. Harikumar who called me to deliver the news he had just received from my Advocate George Poonthottam through my erstwhile colleague at Kerala University Mr. R S Sasikumar. By then all the visual media had been flashing the news from the office of His Excellency the Governor of Kerala and Chancellor of Kerala University.
It came as a pleasant “shock” because it was something unimaginable when the CPI(M) was very much in power. Mixed emotions engulfed me. I heaved a deep sigh of relief that all was not lost for Kerala. Then a feeling of sheer victory, noble avenge welled up my eyes. The entire tortuous past flashed in.
V.M Sudheeran, one of the most respected Congress leaders in Kerala in a function in Trivandrum to felicitate you wanted the CPI(M) and the Kerala senate and syndicate to apologize to you? Do you think CPI(M) and its leaders will ever do it?
Oh No. Never… That is something alien to CPM and Co.. Realizing, admitting, regretting and apologizing for criminal acts committed by them have no place in their constitution. Go back to history and read Stalin.
|Dr V Thankamani @ Work in the old Biotechnology Lab in Kerala University - to create a world class facility!|
Now let us go few years back…You were ousted from KU on charges of erroneous teaching methods. This was the first time any University is dismissing a professor with this charge. You have been a first rank holder in M.Sc and was in the teaching field for over 30 years. How did you take that you were dismissed on charges of erroneous teaching methods?
I could only pity the Marxist outfits for their tragically poor IQ in spite of possessing such a brigade thoroughly brain washed only to plot and undo to have thought of such a poor scheme to outdo Thankamani!
As someone remarked in the Public Reception accorded to me “CPM ought to have done a better homework to conjure and churn out better, plausible and convincing reasons before flinging allegations such as inability to communicate, poor command over English, lack of clarity” to terminate Dr V Thankamani (one with a brilliant track record and credentials, who has been in the teaching fray for 37 + years! right from JIPMER Pondicherry 1974-76 thru’ College of Engineering Trivandrum 1976-1995, Founder Head, Dept. of Biotechnology, KU from 1995-2007; single handedly managing the entire academic - the only teacher from March 1995 to March 8th 2007 for 2 MSc batches & 10 PhD scholars, teaching & research, and the most complex- an environment steeped in party politics - heavy administration activities 1995 to 2007)
You were in Academic Council of KU from 1995 till you were dismissed, senate member from 1995 to 97, and then from 2001 to 2005; Syndicate member from 2001 to 2005 – if you see the date of appointment all appointments were done by UDF government. Did your proximity of UDF and Congress made you a natural enemy of CPI-M?
I was nominated to Senate and Syndicate by the Chancellor on the recommendations of UDF Govt. Naturally I became their enemy. I was not ready to accept their fiefdom on any wise and had the guts to question their tyranny unleashed against the faculty and employees and expose their misdeeds- made me a pain in their neck; a force to reckon with.
They recognize and accept only those who are their party henchmen. CPM is totally intolerant to even a difference of opinion/ disagreement. They are absolute dictators and see University as their party property and teachers as their slaves. They order and we have to simply obey or face annihilation.
You have told in so many occasions that you were tortured by all the party wings of CPI-M. Can you narrate the horrors you have to go through?
I took over as Head of the Biotech Dept. in 1995 when Dr. J V Vilanilam (another victim of CPM cruelty) was the Vice Chancellor. He too was appointed as VC during the CM K.Karunakaran Sir’s time (naturally first in CPM’s hit list!). As per their equation Thankamani too got added to JVV’s list. More over I refused to join the KUTA ( Kerala University Teachers Association- more appropriate to state an extension of CPM Party Office) and chose to join KUTO Kerala University Teachers’ Organization.
|Dr V Thankamani after being reinstated as Head of the Department in her |
The saga commenced there. First contingent was their student wing the SFI to accost me. They barged into my office cabin, questioned my authority to ask research scholars to maintain research work record. When I didn’t budge they flung the chairs, smashed the glass panes, windows, locked me up inside till late night. Nothing deterred me. I stood my ground that none could question my freedom to guide, teach and enforce discipline among the taught. They showered filthy abuses at me. Thereafter it became a regular affair – harassment, physical threats, gheraos, bandhs etc They had the full blessings of the Unions, DYFI, CPM..
Everyday 7am till late nights at office it was so stressful, constantly persecuted and abused in foul language. Peace eluded me. It was like being in Afghanistan/ Iran/Iraq/ Indo Pak border never sure when a missile could land on you.
It is tough to move forward when you are harassed and tortured like this by a powerful political party. Even courageous men will falter. You being a woman showed great courage in fighting a lonely battle against the political might of CPI-M? What gave you courage to fight against them against all odds?
I have always believed whatever be one’s position, one should do justice to the chair. My boss is my conscience and there was no question of surrendering to any mortal when values and principles in public life were at stake and slavery to a political party is simply out of question.
During that tough time did the so called intellectuals or cultural leaders or women organizations or human rights activists came to your support?
Now you have decided to join back KU do you fear backlash? The same people instrumental in dismissing you are still in KU? Do you think they will create roadblocks for you?
I should be prepared for it.
KU was once a premier institute and now it is now ranked very low. Being a teacher and an administrator associated with KU can you tell me what all led to KU falling from grace?
Criminal politicization and corruption of University campuses; erosion of quality of teachers (again party affiliations and money are the criteria for selection).
Inside KU every one know that union associated with Left Front and CPI-M and very strong and no administrator has the guts to go against those powerful unions. Can you throw some light into how organized power of Employee Unions and politicians sabotage KU?
The nominations to the Syndicate, Senate and even appointment of Vice Chancellors are purely political. Qualities, values and genuine qualifications are relegated to the background. Academics is the last priority. Naturally seats of power make it obligatory on the part of the aspirants to seek any avenue through the politicians even if they have to surrender their individuality, pride and dignity. These bodies function as extensions of Party office. Anyone who dares to question the party will be inviting their wrath.
Dr.V. Thankamani was so many rolled into ONE with working time from 7am to 2 midnight. She was a sweeper ; scavenger; attender; casual labour; clerk; typist; adminstrative officer; accountant;issuing forms, bus tickets, filling up fellowship requests for all maintaining all registers, purchasing , payment, regularization, stock entry, maintenance. Dr Thankamani was not provided with even a peon, clerk, typist, Adm. Officer, library assistant., teaching or laboratory staff for 12 years since 1995. She made 79 appeals to the VC not even a reply leave alone sanction of staff.
How do you see the future of education especially higher education in Kerala?
The degradation, decay and erosion have been so deep that the prospects are very bleak.
You will be retiring after few months. Any plans after retiring?
I have to think about it.
Biotechnology Lab in Kerala University being burnt down by Marxist goons after Dr V Thankamani refused to allow an SFI leader 174 th Rank holder with 7% marks to a course where the total number of open merit seats was 6
I have talked to few politicians especially from UDF in Kerala and they consider you as someone who had courage to fight the communist might. If you are given an offer to enter into politics by Congress or any other political party will you accept that offer?
As an academician and scientist for nearly four decades with ample opportunities to administer from powerful chairs in a politically charged environment, I believe the opinions of the political leaders in the UDF about me. Yet politics is a field which calls for many other traits which an academician may not possess. I would certainly take up a commensurate decisive position in academics if offered.
So after you were dismissed you were working as Senior Professor and HOD in VIT University, Vellore. How was that experience? I have always described VIT not just a big organization but a great temple of learning built with sheer sacrifice, diligence and vision for our nation. I enjoyed every moment at VIT- the high 24 hour work culture, excellent amenities, facilities, dignity, safety and security. There may not be many peers in India.
Are you sad leaving VIT?
Yes of course; but the historic glorious victory of justice and values makes me anxious to return to my saddle with pride.
Now some personal questions – tell me more about your family…
My husband Mr Harikumar is the grandson of Mahakavi Ulloor.S.Parameswara Iyer and was working in ISRO,VSSC, TVM. My daughter, a software Engineer, was with Hewlett - Packard and presently doing MBA at IIM-B; my son also an Engineer at ISRO,VSSC Tvm is now at Sweden doing MS in ECE.
You have gone through a lot in the last two decades. It could have been a tough for the family especially your kids to go through this. How does your family cope up with that?
At this point I must admit that I was married into a great home. Right from my mother in law, husband and children felt proud about my courage to stand my ground even when faced with threats on my life, unabated torture and denials. It is something very rare. Yet I know it was a grueling period for all especially my children! They sacrificed a lot to let their mother give her best to the Institution and the society. I have apologized profusely and begged their pardon on several occasions, but they never expressed any indignation....they were too great ...I hope Almighty will forgive me. But I lost many things I know .. which I can never recover.. the loss is forever.. and possibly the most precious to a mother ...
What has life taught you till now?
I don’t regret my stand or my posture at any point of time during the 13 years of savagery I faced. Life is so transient, precious and must be lived based on high values. One must do one’s duties at any cost. It is worth all the sacrifice because right from one’s own children the entire younger generations witnessing such a life will certainly be positively influenced at some point of time in their life.
India has a rich heritage but that has become extinct... Look at the papers .. the media .. what is there, who is there worthy of emulation on any facet!! Massive corruption, pilfering, nepotism, killings to amass ill wealth is galore. It is tragic but at least a few citizens must prevail to contain and let our society and nation move forward even in the most wretched environment.
Of course I too have had moments of absolute sense of ... devastation and despair... futility of choosing the tough, rough path in the cause of values.. well was it really worth ?.. who wants people of that sort? Students, university, parents, society or the nation..! shockingly painful to say no one is longing for them.. they are even liable to be dumped as absolutely idiotic or eccentric to have miserably failed to make a fortune seeking all the dubious paths open before them...Still I believe it is worth all the travails.