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Anti-intellectual behaviour of university students - Part iv:

Deliberate creation of chaotic events

Continued from Thursday

Another subtle strategy practiced by the student union and its leaders to achieve its dominance is the deliberate creation of chaos in the University.

As the country knows well by now, creating chaos and thriving on commotions thus created both in the Universities and the country at large has been the hallmark of JVP politics since 1971.

The JVP ideology is fundamentally conflict driven and reactive. So is the JVP student politics in the University. A peaceful and intellectually challenging and thriving environment is a fundamental anathema for the student union and its supporters as it can only survive under crisis and intellectually muted environment.


Taking to the streets- a result of manupulation

Peaceful and intellectual environment according to the student union and its leaders is a submission to authorities who are either capitalists, the imperialists, western stooges, conspirators against the student movements, and even traitors of the students. For the student union and its leaders who are mostly anti-intellectual in ideology, the University is non-productive, socially irrelevant and waste of time. For the student union leaders who feel more at home in protests, agitations and demonstration, the vibrant and tranquil intellectual environment of the University is a mismatch. One of the most recent posters at the University summarized the JVP perception of knowledge. The English translation of the last line of a verse written in elephant sized letters on a large notice board which has become the sole property of the student union reads “what is the use of reading books”! This summarizes the student union’s vision of higher education in modern world which according to everyone else but JVP is moving towards a “Knowledge society”, and not a communist society that Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Mao Tse-tung dreamt several decades ago.

Chaos and crisis provide them with opportunities to protest, agitate, demonstrate, boycott classes, desecrate the University premises, take teachers and University authorities as prisoners, assault students opposing them, herd the supporters to protest marches in Colombo against the national authorities. The chaos and crisis create opportunities for the student union to become rebels who could take on the University authorities, represent the “suppressed university students”, speak on behalf of the student rights and against the “authoritative dictatorial rule” of the university authorities and champion the cause of the student movement of the country in the eyes of the larger student body. Simply continuing chaos and crisis is needed for the union’s survival legitimacy.

Let me be specific and tell you how the student union create, manipulates and win through the chaos. Let me take the well publicized crisis that was created by the student union over the naming of the newest hall of residence at Peradeniya as the Sir Ivor Jennings Hall. No one could really make a case against naming a student residential hall after Sir Ivor Jennings, the founder of the University of Peradeniya, and its first Vice-Chancellor. Partly due to ignorance and foolishness and partly due to the need to create a crisis situation during a period of relative calm at the University, the union and its leaders decided to unceremoniously and disgracefully pull down the name plaque of Sir Ivor Jennings, and replace it with a mediocre Tamil JVP student leader whose name was not known outside the student union. With this illegal, unruly mob activity, the union and its supporters have now created a crisis. Having created the crisis, the union has won the round one against the University.

The union knew well in advance, this incident will lead to disciplinary actions by the University and some of the student leaders will be punished. (Incidentally it was a well known tactic by the student unions to create situations where some students will be punished and then to demand those punishment be removed. In fact most students who are hailed heroes of the student movement were in fact either innocent by-standers who got caught in the crisis or those who were guilty of violating the University rules and regulations not to mention the law of the land).

Once, the punishments were meted out through the university disciplinary system, now the union organized a series of protests, marches, agitations, demonstrations, token strikes, fasting and the union defined style of satyagrahas, arguing that the students were unreasonably punished by inefficient, biased, and authoritative rulers. By organizing these events and mustering the students to take part in these various forms of destructive activities, the union has won the round two against the University. The union is now silent over the actual offences committed by the student leaders, no matter how grave, destructive and disruptive they are, but continue to pressurize, threat and intimidate the university authorities to either drop or reduce the charges and punishments.

Often due to external and internal pressure to keep the Universities functioning smoothly, the authorities are compelled to soften the punishments sometimes to the extent of making meaningless. The student union now celebrates this as one their hard fought victories on behalf of the students’ movement against the “unjust and authoritative” university authorities. With this, the union has won round three against the University authorities and thus the union also won the game. They come out as the victorious leaders of the student movement who are committed to fight for the student rights against the unreasonable rulers.

The chaos and the crisis has now elevated the student union to a new level with renewed legitimacy to represent the students and gained new strength to fight against the “unjust” university authorities. This way every chaos and crisis the student union masterminds ensures the desired result for the union. Unfortunately, every such act undermines the authority of the university on the one hand and objective of university education on the other and pull the students down to the deepest abyss of intellectual life. At the end of this cycle of crises, the name plaque of Sir Ivor Jennigs was re-erected but the student union had already made the best use of the crisis for its own political advantage. The issue was never about taking down the name plaque of Sir Ivor Jennings. It was all about creating a crisis and Sir Ivor Jennings name plaque happened to be conveniently located for the calculating student union looking for a crisis.

What the student union and its leaders want is not students who spend most of their time in the library or the laboratory but the students who dig holes on the ground to put up flag posts, climb trees to hang banners, apply paste on wall and boards to put up posters, participate in protest marches for and on behalf of the student unions, signing and shouting slogans against the University authorities and national level non-JVP politicians. What the student union wants is not the peace and tranquility of an intellectual environment where students excel in critical thinking and question the dogma, but a place of conflict, disharmony, chaos and fear where the students simply allow the union to have its own agenda even though it is against their larger interests. What the student union wants is not an informed student body capable of challenging the student union both on logic and argument as well as facts and reality.

The student union and leaders are shrewdly aware that their own brand of idealistic and hollow political philosophy of communism cannot stand up to modern day practical or theoretical challenge. The hypocrisy of the student union leaders who sip Coca Cola under the portrait of Lenin in the student canteen is amply proven by their own behaviour!. What the student union leaders want is for the entire university community, students, and teachers, administrators to accept and submit to their hegemony. Sadly the student union has been winning at the same rate at which the quality of our universities were losing. The two is negatively correlated.

Undermining rules and regulations

It is almost unimaginable but true that the student union and leaders want to transform the students into criminals and law breakers. In fact the University at the hands of the student union has become an anti-social mill which brings in decent, intelligent, law abiding young men and women and puts out paper qualified socially misfits and undesirable group of gangs willing to break laws indiscriminately. The exact opposite of what Sir Ivor Jennings dreamt of. The student union and its leaders are primarily responsible for this pathetic and heinous transformation.

The student union practises a kind of politics that fundamentally hates and despises peace, calm, democracy and the rule of law. The student union ideology borne in the Marxist philosophy of conflict preaches that the existing University structure is not capable of looking after the welfare of students and thus the union has to be on guard to ensure their rights and welfare are taken care of by the authorities. Sadly, the knowledge of Marxism among today’s student leaders is extremely shallow and limited to rhetorically popular political statements. The rules, regulations and by laws of the University are imposed on students, according to the student union, essentially to undermine and curtail the students rights and freedoms. Thus, the student union and its leaders have devised elaborate and intricate programs to undermine university rules and regulations as well as law of the land.

The fundamental base for the disrespect for law starts with the premise that national law enforcement agencies have no role to play inside the University premises. This tradition may have started in the past because the university culture thrives through argument and disagreement and challenging the establishment and the intellectuals at the University (both students and Faculty) can engage in these without harming the other. Thus, there is really no need for policing the highly disciplined good natured and intellectually higher beings at the University. The student union and its leaders of modern day Sri Lankan Universities have reinterpreted this freedom at the University to mean an entirely a different thing.

What is happening today is just as the LTTE believes that Sri Lankan laws do not apply in Kilinochchi and the words of the leader becomes the law, the student union and its leaders also tend to believe that normal law of the country does not apply within the University premises and their words become the law. The union is always right and the University authorities are always wrong. The union never breaks the law, they only protect the rights of the students. They never defy the authority, they just rise against injustice. Using these kind of jargon, the Union and its leaders have turned out to become a bunch of lawless hooligans disrupting the decorum and the smooth functioning of the University. By pushing the other students to defy the authorities and break the laws of the University, the union has become legally recognized body engaging in illegal and criminal activities. To be continued

(The writer is attached to the Department of Geography, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.)

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