Kerala education minister Abdu Rabb said on Tuesday he was against the practice of boys and girls sitting together on same benches in classrooms or on campuses of education institutes, remarks that drew flak from many student groups and activists in the state.
“I am against it personally. They (boys and girls) can be present in a classroom together, but we can’t insist that they sit together in a bench. No gender discrimination is involved here,” the minister said, and added colleges were free to take a call on the matter.
The minister was reacting to a controversy over a male student being expelled from a college in Kozhikode (north Kerala) for sitting with girl students.
Later, Kerala high court had stayed the suspension of the student for a month. A lecturer of the college was expelled last week for questioning the college’s action on social media.
After Rabb’s remarks, student organisations and activists said his stand will encourage gender discrimination.
“The minister should withdraw his statement and tender an apology,” said Kerala Students’ Union (Congress’ youth body) state president BS Joy.
In Kozhikode’s Farook College, nine BA second-year students -- some of them girls -- were sent out of the class in the second week of October after they were found sitting together on same benches.
Eight students joined classes after authorities summoned their guardians and had talks with them. But, Dinu K did not bring his parents along in defiance of the management’s decision.
The college suspended him pending a probe before the intervention of the high court.