The Colombo University was turned into a mini battleground yesterday as a group of students went on the rampage, throwing stones, assaulting at least two marshals of the university and breaking into the office of the marshals and damaging property.
At least 11 persons, including university lecturers, were injured in the melee. Three of the injured have been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital.
The clash erupted due to an e-mail doing the rounds, which alleged that a female student had been abused by a marshal. According to police, a group of students had been protesting in the university premises yesterday over the contents of the e-mail. The clash had erupted when the marshals videoed the protesting students.
According to Police Media Spokesman SSP Ranjith Gunasekara, the alleged incident over which yesterday s clash occurred had taken place during the period of the SAARC summit, when a couple had allegedly engaged in lewd behaviour in a classroom within the university premises.
However some university students claimed that the incident had occurred some time last year but only come to light over the past few weeks -- after an e-mail concerning the incident began to circulate.
Addressing a press conference last afternoon, the University s Vice Chancellor, Professor Shanika Hirumburegama, said that the e-mail had been handed over to the CID for further investigation and most of the visuals contained in the e-mail had been faked using modern technology. She said that this had been revealed by the investigations carried out so far.
She added that she had not received any complaints from the students regarding the contents of the e-mail. She had, however, called the students for a meeting at 9.00 am yesterday but they had not turned up even by 11.00 am.
Students had told police that, according to the e-mail, two of the marshals (who oversee discipline at the university) had filmed the couple secretly with a camera phone. They had then driven the male student away but not allowed the female student to leave. The female student had been forced to remain and, afterwards, been sexually abused by the marshals.
Students from every faculty came out and made their way to the office of the university marshals and damaged the property there. The two marshals who had allegedly abused the student were assaulted and one had blood oozing from his head, a student who witnessed the incident told Daily Mirror.
Police, who rushed to the university moments after the clash erupted, dispersed the large crowd and launched a full scale inquiry into the incident. Riot squads were also put on standby outside the university premises.
The clash had erupted after angry student mobs launched a protest in front of the university offices against the alleged abuse. Some students had then noticed some marshals videotaping the protest. The students had then forced their way into the office and demanded the video of the female and male student allegedly misbehaving in the classroom. After that the students had assaulted members of the staff, and a clash had erupted involving the marshals, students and the staff. Some members of the staff, who had been badly assaulted, had handed over the videos of the protest to the students.
After the police dispersed the crowds a discussion had been held in the university premises between the three parties, to resolve the issue. However, angry students said they would not stop their protests until the two marshals accused of raping the student were arrested.