Sri Lanka has made a name for herself as a country that has effectively neutralised terrorism. The JVP terror was defeated on two occasions, in 1971 and in the late 1980s. The LTTE terror which spanned three decades was brought to an end last year.
However, there are still pockets of terrorism of a different kind. They are the national universities, where some thugs in undergraduates` garb are unleashing hell. These mentally deranged elements resort to all forms of terrorism from torture to murder. They cut, stab and club one another in internecine battles that erupt far too often on campuses. New entrants have to undergo torture at the hands of psychopaths who call it ragging.
We, as a fatalistic nation, let the grass grow under our feet for many years hoping and praying in vain that the universities would transform themselves into seats of higher learning again. That never happened. Instead, ultra radical political elements with an anarchical agenda and others of their ilk consolidated their power in universities and turned them into hellholes.
The past few years, however, saw some determined efforts being made by politicians and the university authorities to remove the rot. It is heartening that the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Directors (CVCD) have launched a national level campaign to rid the universities of violence, ragging and indiscipline. They held the `National Convention on student discipline, ragging and anti-violence` on Monday. Its focus was on zero tolerance of ragging, a collective and national effort to stop it, occupational responsibility, formulation of a national policy to restore universities to their pristine position and the protection of human rights in universities. The UGC and CVCD delegates will meet again to work out an action plan, we are told. They deserve the unstinted support of one and all to achieve the noble goal of making universities safe for the country`s children to pursue their higher studies.
Stern action is called for against university thugs who have become a law unto themselves. It is salutary that the UGC and CVCD have urged victims of ragging to report their tormentors to the police direct. Similarly, the police must be given free rein to deal with disruptive violent elements in universities who are furthering the interests of bankrupt political parties like the JVP.
It is a misconception deeply rooted in the minds of dons and students alike that the police should steer clear of universities, which are said to enjoy some kind of autonomy.
No less a person than Sir Ivor Jennings exploded this myth way back in 1953. He had this to tell the warden of the James Peiris Hall, Peradeniya University at that time, who in a letter to Sir Ivor opposed police action against students during riots in that year: `It is of course the practice of this University as it is the practice of other Universities, to endeavour to maintain discipline among its students, including the observance of the general laws, without requiring the assistance of the police. The police in Ceylon, as in England, help the university by drawing attention to any threat against the laws of Ceylon of which they become aware, in the hope that the University will be able to prevent it. This practice does not, however, deprive the police of the right and the duty to take steps as may be lawful for dealing with actual or threatened breaches of laws The simplest and the best way for the students of the James Peiris Hall to keep the police out of this Hall is for them all to do their duty as citizens and observe the laws of the island If either because of a request from the University or because of their general duty under the laws of the island it becomes necessary for the police to enter the Hall it is the duty of every student to assist the police in the execution of their duty. The university itself will give the police every assistance and in no circumstances will it condone or excuse breaches of the laws of Ceylon in the James Peiris Hall or elsewhere.`
Need we say more?
Peace loving students, parents, responsible politicians, university authorities and the police must go the whole hog to stamp out campus terrorism, root and branch.
Then only will we be able to boast that we are free from terrorism.