University students seen agitating on the road
Pix by Nisal Baduge
According to the Viyangoda the fascist way of thinking had crept into the minds of the undergraduates many moons ago
There are also incidents within the university which take place due to high political influence
In 1988 agitating Burmese students were successful in throwing out a dictator who ruled with an iron first for 26 years
Twenty-year old undergraduate Pasindu Hirushan’s life is in limbo. Like every child studying for the Advanced Level Examination, this boy from St.Peter’s College Udugampola made the grade in collegiate education. However, the brutal ragging culture present in university changed the course of his life onto a bumpy road.
We refer to the university as a place where academics are nurtured and our future leaders are moulded. It’s not that we don’t know that there is much energy in these undergraduates and that must be channeled towards a good cause or to indulge in art or sport.
This energy in them has been used during the past to serve social causes. Undergraduates around the world have in the past played a distinct role in the country’s politics. In 1848 students were involved in the German revolution. In 1988 agitating Burmese students were successful in throwing out a dictator who ruled with an iron first for 26 years. In South Korea students who demonstrated forced the authorities to return to the democratic way of conducting elections. In countries like India, Kenya, Vietnam and Burma students have been involved in the freedom struggle of their respective nations.
There are many who support the thinking that though recruits come from all walks of life they must be brought to a platform within the university to ensure that everyone is on one page where much of the thinking is considered. Some are of the opinion that mild forms of ragging serve this purpose.
When student agitations are organised there are those who mingle with the crowd, but the aggression with which others operate is starkly missing in them. The same goes with ragging. There are those who are for and against ragging at uni. But any right-thinking undergraduate knows where to draw the line when welcoming sessions are conducted for freshers. We need to take a closer look at how thinking can reach extreme states within the university. For this purpose this writer takes for an example an incident which took place at the ‘Well’ at the Peradeniya University back in 2016.
On July 12 that year a group of artistes led by renowned dramatist Kaushalya Fernando conducted the play ‘Dutu Thena Allanu’ following an invitation extended to her by the alumni and past graduates of this university. In some of the scenes the artistes had to feature in kissing scenes and there was also a scene where there was a role for one in the cast to play the role of a prostitute. The artiste who played this role was skimpily dressed so as to resemble the ideal call girl. After continuous hooting, throwing half-eaten pods of maize into the ‘Well’ followed by stone throwing the artistes were forced to halt the drama.
Fernando was later told by one in the audience that she and her cast had dirtied a holy place like the ‘Well’ through these intimate scenes in the play.
Gamini Viyangoda writing a review on the incident to the Sunday Ravaya newspaper says that the incident shows there are sections of individuals among these undergraduate who can’t appreciate news products, can’t respect the ideas of others and possess the minds of montessori kids. He adds that those who fall into this group often have political agendas and should not be given entrance to universities.
According to the Viyangoda the fascist way of thinking had crept into the minds of the undergraduates many moons ago. Is this aggressive way of thinking and conducting oneself within the university the result of some undergraduates not being able to deal with the high social status they enjoy from an academic sense?
There are also incidents within the university which take place due to high political influence. In 2016 June 16, Sinhalese undergraduates studying at Jaffna University came under an attack by Tamil undergraduates because the former included an Upcountry Eastern dance item for the show; something which was not in the agenda.
Some investigations into the incident revealed that this dance item was included to meet the requirement of a hardcore Sinhalese politician from the south.
The most disgusting thing about the incident featuring Hirushan is that the spokesperson for the university students’ union has said that the incident was an accident. Social media sites have gone further and quoted a students’ union representative stating that such incidents which take place within the university don’t merit an investigation. The Crimes Division of the Mirihana Police is investigating into the incident.
University undergraduates must be reminded that they are studying thanks to tax payers’ money. Hence they must take note that they shouldn’t destroy property at the university. Recently we came to know that some undergraduates at Kelaniya University were blamed for destroying the CCTV cameras installed at the camus; the damage to the equipment is said to be 27 lakhs. The undergrads protested that the cameras were installed to control them, hence the retaliation. The authorities countered that the equipment was installed to boost security within the institute following the Easter Sunday bombings.
In the wake of this disturbing trend of unruly events in universities, one of the Vice Chancellors of the Kelaniya University Ven. Welivitiye Soratha Thera has said that undergraduates have the liberty to criticise and investigate things that bother them, but warns them not to become extremists.
The bottomline to all this is that it’s alarming when a section of these undergraduates behave in a manner in which suggests that they have nothing to lose!