‘Discrimination free education, a friendly campus’: These were the words on a campus election poster printed by members of Muslim Students Federation (MSF) at the MET Arts and Science College in Nadapuram in Malappuram.
What was ironic was that, the poster that vouched for a discrimination free campus had the faces of 12 young men and 9 faceless women. Instead of printing pictures of the women contestants, the committee has printed dummy images of burqa-clad women. They have even used a dummy picture for a non-Muslim contestant.
On Thursday, colleges affiliated to Calicut University saw this academic year’s college union elections take place.
The election poster has generated much discussion on social media platforms for not including the photos of women candidates.
The irony of the situation was not lost on social media users and the past few days saw several users have called out the hypocrisy. Some users even said sarcastically, that it was thoughtful of the committee to have respected the religion of the non-Muslim woman candidate by not replacing her photo with that of a burqa-clad faceless woman.
However, the members of MSF, the students union affiliated to the Indian Union Muslim League, at the college told TNM that the decision to not print photos of the women candidates was taken, after the women candidates unanimously demanded so.
Sayyid Hadhi, member of MSF who was the Chairperson of the college union in the previous academic year, dismissed the allegation that not printing the photos of the women candidates amounted to gender discrimination.
“It was done after they themselves asked for it. The girls didn’t want their photos to be printed on the posters and so we respected their decision,” he added.
Another member Najmussaquib, who is the University Union Council (UUC) candidate in the current election, argued that by not printing the women candidate’s photos, they had in fact upheld a woman’s right of choice.
“A woman has the constitutional right to decide whether she wants her photo printed or not. There’s nothing wrong in it,” Najmussaquib insisted.
He added that while MSF has always had many women candidates every year for elections, all the women candidates over the years have made the same requests of keeping their faces off the posters.
When TNM reached out to a woman candidate contesting for the post of Vice Chairperson, she declined to comment on the issue.
Earlier in October last year, the SFI unit of Ma’din Arts and Science College in Malappuram and Aspire college, Palakkad had also refrained from printing the photos of women candidates. After this generated widespread criticism on social media, the SFI units of both the colleges printed a revised poster with the photos of the women candidates.