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Sangh Parivar Violence, Fake News on Student Artist From Kerala Varma College who Committed Suicide
(Picture: O. S. Visakh who committed suicide. Source – Facebook)

O. S. Visakh, who was a student of Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur, Kerala is being attacked on social media by Hindu right wing sympathisers after he committed suicide on Saturday (16 June, 2018). Visakh, who was one of the brightest artists of the college was also an SFI (Students’ Federation of India, the student wing of CPI(M)) member. Hindu fundamentalist groups on social media are now spreading fake news about him saying that he was the artist behind a banner from 2017 which was in news when it was attacked by right wingers.

Last year, during the time of welcoming freshers, SFI had erected banners under various themes, said Hemanth, who is SFI Unit President and college magazine editor. Under the theme called ‘Bans,’ the student leaders had reproduced M. F. Husain’s famous painting of Hindu god Saraswathi. This was one of the paintings of the legendary artist for which Hindu fundamentalist parties had attacked him on many occasions. They had attacked Husain, his house and paintings saying it was not appropriate for the god to be shown in the nude.

The reproduction of the painting in the college had resulted in Hindu right wing groups and supporters attacking SFI and those who supported the banner on social media in 2017.

Strangely, Visakh’s suicide was not reported by media till Sangh Parivar groups on Facebook started sharing hateful posts about him. The posts insulted and abused the student and also said that his death was the result of divine retribution by the Hindu god. The origin of these posts is considered to be from a profile by the name K. K. Manoj.

K. K. Manoj’s post from June 20, 2018 showed a picture of the banner and Visakh with the following lines in Malayalam ‘Comrade Visakh who insulted god Saraswathi committed suicide. It was in Kerala Varma college that the banner that insulted (the) culture was erected. Respectful tributes’

Manoj’s profile describes himself as an ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)) activist.

This post was shared widely in right wing groups with added insults and abuses. Hemanth said that Manoj’s post had not only shared fake news about Visakh but also reduced the gifted artist to a single banner. He said that another student of Kerala Varma college named Jayakrishnan had made it clear that it was not Visakh who had reproduced the Husain painting on the banner. ABVP leaders in Kerala Varma had not bothered to issue a statement even after this, he said. SFI and Visakh’s family intend to fight this injustice legally, he added.

While most students of the college have been told that Visakh took his life following a fight he had at home with his father and brother, one of Visakh’s friends who is in touch with the family said that they are still investigating the circumstances that led to the suicide. The family do not believe that a fight at home could have led Visakh to commit suicide and are determined to find out what the real cause is, he said.

A memorial programme was held on June 19 in the college. The students intend to go ahead with programmes like painting competitions to pay tribute to Visakh and to remember the artist student who was a regular winner in art competitions at all college fests.

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