None to blame but themselves

Our main picture yesterday had a group of university students crying themselves hoarse in a protest against the closure of the University of Peradeniya. The university was closed recently following a continuous protest staged by a group of students against the suspension of some students over ragging.

The university authorities say that they had no alternative but to close the university because of the protracted protest.

But for ragging in the university, which warranted the suspension of several students, the university would have functioned smoothly. And the suspension imposed on these students is also justifiable in that there is no other solution to the problem of brutal ragging. The university ragging has assumed so barbaric proportions that some parents are wary of allowing their children to enter university.

It is in response to the public outcry over the barbaric acts which some university students disport themselves in the name of ragging that the university authorities were compelled to introduce tough laws to curb university ragging. University students have none but themselves to blame for the introduction of these stern measures to counter ragging. Several students have already been either paralysed or killed due to inhuman ragging and the university authorities cannot be blamed in anyway for having given full cry to these laws however ‘draconian’ they may be in the eyes of students.

There may have been a kind of overreaction on the part of the authorities where the suspension at issue is concerned as claimed by students, yet that is to be expected in a situation where students act in defiance of the law. For, the university authorities have come under severe criticism for not having been able to deal with the perpetrators of ragging.

The closure of a university is the least desirable thing to do. All possible avenues must be explored to amicably solve the problems confronting a university. The closure of a university affects all students alike. It on the other hand further leads to student unrest and causes an undue delay for those who are awaiting entrance. But there are times when the university authorities are left without any other alternative as in the case of the recent closure of the Peradeniya University.

It is unfortunate that for what a few amongst them are responsible all students have to undergo punishment. The vast majority of university students obviously do not countenance brutal ragging. But they are voiceless as they are coerced into submission by those political elements bent on creating trouble on campuses for political reasons.

Those who have elevated themselves as student leaders appear to be emulating the brigand Veerappan. Why these university Veerappans have succeeded in holding the majority of students to ransom in their efforts to secure withdrawal of the suspension of a handful of students is the pusillanimity of the majority. Ragging goes on in university hostels, ultra radical political elements create trouble and universities are closed. Yet not a whimper of protest emerges from thousands of students who are in no way responsible for them.

Apart from the university authorities it is also the responsibility of the students to enable smooth functioning of universities. If the majority of students lack the courage to stand up to the rowdy elements and say in unison enough is enough, then they have failed to fight for their rights. No amount of shouting slogans opposite the University Grants Commission is going to help them. It is a futile exercise to win public sympathy, which is no longer with university students.

If the authorities give in to the pressure being mounted by student unions, it will create a bad precedent in universities.

Where ragging and politics are concerned the only way to keep universities open is for the majority of students to organise themselves against the unruly elements among themselves whose actions lead to closures. It appears that they can no longer depend for this purpose on the existing student councils dominated by political elements with hidden political agendas.

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