Liberate universities from terrorists
The worst form of terrorism in this country has been effectively neutralised and the people now can move about freely without fear of being blown to bits or maimed for life. Numerous attempts to rid the country of the scourge of terror by peaceful means came a cropper and the evil flourished.
The country finally had no alternative but to grasp the nettle and speak the language the terrorists understood. That method worked. A war that had spanned three decades came to an end within less than three years.
There is another form of terrorism that needs to be eliminated from our midst once and for all. That is campus terrorism which has so far claimed several precious lives and caused grievous injury to many others. Savages in the garb of undergrads torturing innocents on the pretext of ragging have turned universities into hellholes. And anarchical elements controlled by bankrupt external political forces are disrupting university education so as to aggravate youth unrest and further their interests.
It is heartening that 13 students of the Peradeniya University have been hauled up before courts over ragging and remanded. There are many more mentally deranged elements masquerading as students on campuses and all of them must be brought to book for harming others. They deserve deterrent punishment so that others of their ilk will behave.
Yesterday, we reported that some brutes had gone to Peradeniya all the way from the Sri Jayewardenepura University recently to torture newcomers there. University ragging has all the trappings of organised crime. The culprits must be hunted down immediately. They are a threat to society. A university thug who tortures his fellow students and denies them access to meals in the name of ragging is capable of committing any crime. We saw them in action in the late 1980s, when the country was plunged into a bloodbath.
Of what use are universities if students cannot pursue their studies without being tortured, assaulted and even killed in some cases? Universities are more closed than open because of politically motivated protests aimed at disrupting education and furthering the interests of Jekyll-and-Hyde political forces whose members indulge in tub-thumping on public platforms and smash students' heads in universities. Strangely, the disruptive elements, more often than not, get away with their unlawful activities unless they commit murder.
In a country where a ruthless terrorist outfit was pursued and eliminated in style, dealing with lesser terrorists in universities must be child's play. It is incumbent upon the government to consider ridding the universities of torturers and disruptive elements a national priority.
No country could aspire to a bright future so long as its seats of higher learning are in crisis. Fund cuts, a chronic dearth of qualified teachers and facilities, deteriorating academic standards etc. have reduced the national universities to the level of mere extensions of Maha Vidyalayas. Brutal ragging has made the situation far worse.
It is not being argued that undergraduates should be moulded into a bunch of conformists ready to take any injustice lying down. They should be given enough freedom and their right to protest recognised. But, any transgression of the law on their part must be severely dealt with. Universities must be kept free from the external political forces and savages bent on inflicting suffering on others.
Tough measures to wipe out campus terrorism are bound to run into stiff resistance in some quarters as evident from the protests by anarchists at the drop of a hat. University authorities play into their hands by closing campuses and thus meting out collective punishment which affects more than others the vast majority of law-abiding students desirous of finishing their studies. A strategy must be worked out, as we have been arguing in these columns, to nab student thugs whose identities are well known without closing universities. Sinister elements are ruling the roost on campuses because the hands of good students are never strengthened. If a hunt is begun for campus thugs; universities are kept open, lectures held and examinations conducted on schedule with adequate security and a warning that those who boycott them will be deemed as having failed, students are sure to respond positively. Those who refuse to comply must be thrown out of universities upon the expiry of the duration of their courses. Unfortunately, what happens at present is that rowdies are allowed to determine whether universities should remain open and when examinations should be held.
The arrest of undergrad thugs responsible for inhuman ragging is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done to liberate the university system from the mentally deranged and the violent. Sterner action is called for.