As predators lurk around watering-holes in the jungle, looking for easy prey, so do perverts in undergraduates` garb, when batches of freshers come in. Beasts may be forgiven for behaving in that manner, as they have no other way of neutralising pangs of hunger. They don`t derive any sadistic pleasure from hunting. Have we ever seen a lion or a tiger, after a sumptuous meal, chase an animal for the fun of it? Never! But, some psychopaths in universities masquerading as students do doubtlessly seek to gratify their bestial desires by causing pain of mind, if not physical harm, to others in the name of ragging.
The Kelaniya University student union leaders has thrown a tantrum over a decision by the university authorities to re-commence classes for senior students one month after the commencement of the orientation programme for the new entrants, as we reported yesterday. Why are he and his cohorts in such a mighty hurry to come back to the campus? Even when the university is open, they never make the most of it, do they? They are preoccupied with politicking and assaulting one another with clubs, swords and stones. If they have nothing else to do only will they think of pursuing their studies. Worse, they also deny other students their sacred right to education and pose a threat to their lives by turning the university premises into a mini battlefield at the drop of a hat.
Why the campus rowdies are so perturbed by that relative delay in recommencing lectures is only too well known. They have been denied an opportunity to catch the new comers as soon as they land on the campus. If freshers undergo an orientation programme which could be used to psychologically prepare them to stand up to perverts, student thugs will have their work cut out, where ragging is concerned. A batch of disoriented new entrants is always easy to be frightened into submission and made putty in the hands of the disruptive elements controlled by external political forces.
The JVP, whose activists dominate university students` unions, has taken upon itself the task of safeguarding the Sri Lankan democracy. Its noble goal is laudable. But, why oh why doesn`t it campaign for democracy in universities, where its operatives are violently suppressing dissent? They don`t even hesitate to smash their rivals` heads with computers!
It was only the other day that the JVP leaders who met the press in the aftermath of Weerawansa`s breakaway extolled the virtues of democracy and human rights. They vowed to fight for protecting human rights. But, inside universities the vast majority of students are without freedom of speech and right to education without disruption. They are not even free from torture which is perpetrated on the pretext of ragging. What have the JVP bigwigs go to say to this? Will they get their activists to campaign against ragging and instigating violence?
A student leader quoted in our news item in question has accused the Kelaniya university administration of trying to save funds by keeping the university closed for seniors. He says the State spends about one million rupees a day to keep the university open. Good that he and his violent chums are aware of the operational costs of the university, though they don`t seem to have got the figure right.
A university semester consists of fifteen weeks and of them about eight weeks are said to be wasted on ragging and allied activities. The State spends about Rs. 29 million (as recurrent expenditure) a day on all fifteen universities and affiliated institutions. Funds for maintaining universities are raised mostly through indirect taxes which are a burden more on the poor than on the rich. The JVP has rightly taken on the government over wasteful expenditure and high cost of living. But, mum`s the word on its part as regards the colossal waste of public funds at universities because of its acolytes.
Minister of Higher Education Prof. Wiswa Warnapala is reported to have said the anti-ragging legislation will be fully implemented with the help of the police. Of what use is passing laws if they cannot be implemented? Universities mustn`t be allowed to remain above the law of the land and all the trouble makers, torturers and killers posing as undergraduates must be severely dealt with as other anti-social elements. Suppression of students` rights is a form of terrorism, which needs to be stamped out at any cost. Ragging and disruption to studies have assumed such an alarming proportion that dozens of students reportedly leave universities out of frustration every year.
All campus thugs who defy the law must be brought to justice. If others protest in support of them, forcing universities to be closed, let them be re-opened only for those who are willing to study. A few rounds of arrests will help ensure the smooth functioning of seats of higher learning for the benefit of peaceful students who are in the majority. This, however, doesn`t mean that all student protests should be crushed and repression enforced on universities. It is the politically motivated thugs and perverts giving expression to their sadism at the expense of others who need to be dealt with severely. And fast!