Kerala college’s first Dalit woman chairperson
By Matters India Reporter
Kochi: A 142-year-old college in Kerala created history on August 22 when its students elected a Dalit woman as its chairperson.
Mridula Gopi of the Student Federation of India (SFI) became the first Dalit and first woman to head the union of the autonomous Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, the twin city of Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital.
This was the first time a student union fought the election with a panel headed by a woman.
Gopi defeated Fuvad Muhammed of the Fraternity Movement by a margin of 121 votes. Seven girl students from the SFI panel won the election. The federation, linked to the Marxist party, also won 13 of the total 14 seats.
Gopi is the final year student of the Bachelor of Commerce course in the college. She is also the vice president of the SFI unit in Palluruthy, a suburb of Kochi.
The SFI also claimed a major victory in the college union elections held in institutions affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University in Ernakulam district. The organization won 47 of the 51 colleges in the district.
SFI district president V.M. Junaid has credited the victory to the secular principles upheld by the federation in the campus. Upholding secularism and fight against communalism was SFI’s main slogan in the elections, he pointed out.
The college began as a single room English school in 1845. The Royal Kingdom of Cochin started it to “impart such instructions to the students as would enable them to converse with Englishmen without the aid of an interpreter.”
The school was upgraded to a college in 1875 and in June 1925 the college acquired its present name. The college provided instruction in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Zoology, History and Economics.
It was initially affiliated with Madras University.
The Kerala government recognised it as a Centre of Excellence in the state and the University Grants Commission (UGC) awarded the College with Potential for Excellence status. In 2014, UGC awarded Autonomous status to the college.