Campus hall stormed: academics held hostage

by Kalinga Weerakkody
Hundreds of second year undergraduates of the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty (EF) on Thursday night stormed the Akbar Hall hostel premises and held its dean, warden, chief security officer and several other academic members hostage for not giving them permission to enter the premises. The premises had been made out of bounds to prevent ragging of freshers.

OIC (Peradeniya) police M. S. Bowala told ‘The Island’ that the students of the Engineering Faculty barricaded the staff from midnight till 5.00 a. m. yesterday demanding that they should be given permission to enter the second year students’ hostel premises to have their meals in the canteen which had been prohibited by the authorities till the end of the ragging period for freshers that would end after the welcoming ceremony which is yet to be held.

Police were summoned under the supervision of DIG Nimal Madiwaka, SSP Gunathilaka Bandara and ASP division one G. B. Peramuna.

The OIC said that though the police riot squads had to be summoned from Daulagala, Kadugannawa, Kandy and Peradeniya and kept outside university premises, the police were not involved in any incident as the students agreed to release the staff following the discussions held between the two factions around 5.00 a. m.

The Vice Chancellor of the Peradeniya University Prof. Kapila Gunasekara told ‘The Island’ that the students who stormed the Akbar hall around midnight on Thursday had demanded the removal of the warden of the hall.

The Vice Chancellor said that this step keeping the ‘Premises out of board’ was taken by his staff under his supervision to prevent any type of inhuman ragging which had claimed many young lives of University students.

He further said that the warden had been strict on giving permission for the second-year students to enter the hall amidst their continuous attempt at ragging the freshers who are accommodated there and number around 300. The accommodation is provided only to the first year and final year students.

He said that when he held discussions with the student faction around 2.00 a. m. yesterday many students came up with the excuse that they were not given permission to have their meals in the canteen of the Akbar Hall which is opened till late in the night.

The Prof. said that despite his assurance given to the students that the canteen of the Engineering Faculty would also be kept open for the convenience of the students, they demanded the removal of the dean and warden. He said that the students resisted his proposal.

The first major incident of inhuman ragging was reported from the Peradeniya University in 1975, when 22 year old Rupa Rathnaseeli, a fresher of the Faculty of Agriculture of the university of Peradeniya was forced to jump from the second floor of the’Ramanathan’ hall to avoid being subjected to physical ragging and as a result leaving her totally paralysed in the lower limbs before she committed suicide in 2002 being unable to overcome her intolerable burdens and also make ends meet.

In 1997 October a young valuable life was lost at the cruel hands of a group of frustrated undergraduates of the university of Peradeniya who ragged 21 year old S. Varapragash to his death. He was allegedly forced to suffer physical ragging by a group of eight Tamil senior students of the Faculty of Engineering of the Peradeniya University on October 6.