Thursday, 25 September 2003  
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Clashes among student groups :
 

J'pura University closed

by Manjula Fernando

The Sri Jayawardenapura University was indefinitely closed yesterday after it came under virtual seige by student groups who had ringed round the campus following violent clashes earlier in the day between two student factions.

Television cameramen covering the scene too were set upon by the mob. Three ITN crew members who received serious injuries were admitted to hospital. They are S. D. Gamini, Mangala Ranganath and Sunil Perera.

Vice Chancellor D.S. Epitawatte was also manhandled by the mob. Even by evening yesterday, the university was encircled by student groups preventing those from leaving the campus and the hostel. The television crew came under attack when they were returning after interviewing the Vice Chancellor. Several arrests had been made following the morning incident.

Education Ministry sources claimed that the JVP backed Inter University Students' Union were behind the violence while the latter accused outside groups for instigating the clash.

The two student factions had been at loggerheads since last Friday after a group of students were assaulted by rivals while preparing to hand over a petition against delaying Mahapola scholarships by the university authorities.

The two groups were accusing each other of trying to disrupt university activities and plotting to close the university.

The Maha Shishya Sangamaya (ISU) claimed that outsiders were brought in by the rival group to assault their members yesterday despite police protection outside.

The assailants had also set upon some members from a State television station.

Meanwhile, PA MP Dinesh Gunawardena raised the issue in Parliament yesterday and warned that they would withdraw from the Select Committee on University Violence unless the Government takes action to prevent outsiders involvement in student clashes.

The union opposing the Maha Shishya Sangamaya claims that the latter is acting according to the JVP agenda to create unrest in the university. They alleged that the Maha Shishya Sangamaya is forcing students to join in their unjustified protest campaigns.

The police continued patrols around the university yesterday. Meanwhile, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga yesterday directed IGP T. E. Anandarajah to bring the situation under control at the university and also to provide police protection to the students, a Presidential Secretariat release, said last evening.

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