Most Malayalis already knew celebrity-chef-turned-college-principal Lekshmi Nair from her old television show on Kairali called Magic Oven (it had the slot right after Sing N Win with hosts Nikhil and Nimmi whom my grandmother always grumpily suspected of being lovers). Nair, who is the President of the Kerala Law Academy in Trivandrum, has been the subject of state-wide protests and national news this week after reports and video clippings of her verbally abusing a student surfaced.
As the allegations against her piled up, a non-bailable case was filed against her for abusing a student belonging to a scheduled caste by referring to him by his caste. Students also allege that she frequently misuses her powers and privileges as principal of the Academy, is solely responsible for the allocation of internal marks to students, and gave additional marks to her future daughter-in-law while witholding marks from students she disliked.
The allegations against her are very serious, and students protested all over the state. She was also simultaneously subject to relentless trolling on the Internet. Trolling, a word that has seamlessly found it’s way into the modern Malayalam lexicon, is something Malayalis, particularly Malayali men, seem to take very seriously, and its a great insight into the worst instincts of a certain kind of Malayali internet user. Her social media profiles have been flooded with abusive, violent and sexual aggressive messages, and she’s also become the subject of violent Whatsapp forwards and pictures. Madhyamam, a Malayalam daily, even published a photo of Nair with donkeys ears, along with text that suggested that the “animal” had finally been “tamed”.
Yesterday, she wrote a letter to the DGP requesting action to be taken against those creating and sharing morphed semi-nude pictures of her on social media. With the internet increasingly being used to subject women to sexual harassment, prompt action in this case and cases like it would send a strong message to abusive “trolls” who operate behind the illusion of invisibility and invincibility that the internet provides.