By Kasun Warakapitiya An off-campus night session of fresher abuse by 15 second-year Peradeniya University undergraduates were rudely interrupted last Sunday when officials walked in on the perpetrators who enjoy free education at public expense.The suspected abusers in this cases are being characterised as organised criminals by police and university officials. Psychiatrists believe undergraduate abusers [...]


Peradeniya uni ‘organised criminals’ had secret off-campus torture chamber


By Kasun Warakapitiya

An off-campus night session of fresher abuse by 15 second-year Peradeniya University undergraduates were rudely interrupted last Sunday when officials walked in on the perpetrators who enjoy free education at public expense.The suspected abusers in this cases are being characterised as organised criminals by police and university officials.

The suspect students being led away by police

Psychiatrists believe undergraduate abusers are narcissists and suffer from inferiority complexes. They lack self esteem, they say.
Peradeniya University officials had been alerted by an anonymous tip-off from which they gathered the location of a partially built house in an isolated area at Doluwa, 5 kilometres from the university. This was a secret hideout for abusers. Security officers, marshals who inquire into disciplinary issues, the proctor, who is head of discipline, as well as some academic staff members set out to hunt down the abusers.
The house rented by the ragging suspects, was isolated from other houses and was in a quiet area in Meegoda, Kalugamuwa.

“Before the raid we conducted our own investigations and had confirmation that senior students were transporting freshers on motorcycles to the house,’’ an officer involved in the raid said.University officials asked for police support and they informed the Deputy Inspector General Kandy as well as the Officer In Charge of Peradeniya Police.

“It was about 10:30 p.m. when we visited the place. Two senior students who had been asked to keep watch at the door had fallen asleep. We positioned our selves at the door and told the academic staff members to surround the house to cut off escape routes,’’ he said.
Officials also recorded the venue on video while they listened to obscene language inside.

The secret hideout of the abusers. Pix by L.B. Senaratne

When the officials entered they found some freshers had been stripped naked and had been told to strike various poses in the living room. One fresher had been forced into the chimney.

Officials found empty bottles of liquor and cigarette ends in the premises. They also found sticks and poles.
Soon they informed the vice chancellor and asked that the police take over. The Proctor of the University of Peradeniya, Dr Gamini Hittinayake, who led the raid, said the students, lecturers, and marshals were shocked. “What we witnessed was very horrifying,’’ he said.

“The boys ragging the freshers were caught red handed and they had nothing to say. As the officer in charge I have to say the seniors’ behaviour was a shame to all university students.’’ Dr Hittinayake said the suspects, all boys, were abusing eight students. Catching the suspects by surprise was a first but such abuse has happened before, he said.

“I am surprised to see how students commit organised crimes, 15 students intimidating eight boys should be condemned,’’ Dr Hittinayake said.
The university determined that a formal inquiry was needed, he said.He said marshals are deployed at hostels, canteens and rest rooms, but students find innovative ways to carry on abuse. Inside the university, senior and fresher interaction is controlled.

Meanwhile, investigations revealed that groups of freshers are contacted by the seniors when they return to university hostels.
The eight student victims had been told to come to a location near the Dalada Maligawa and ordered to follow the seniors by bus. They were then moved to the house on motorbikes.

The landlord, a businessman who is said to be often away, had been tricked into believing that the premises was being rented for the duration of a geological survey. The Officer In Charge of Peradeniya Police, Kamal Ariyawansa, said the student suspects were remanded in custody until March 2 after being produced before a magistrate.

“They will be charged under the Anti Ragging Act. Causing sexual harassment or causing grievous hurt to a student or member of the staff in an educational institutions is a non-bailable offence, for which bail should be obtained from a High Court,’’ he said.If convicted, they are liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, and could also be ordered to pay compensation of an amount determined by court.

The 15 second-year Peradeniya University suspects will also face charges for wrongful detention of students and criminal intimidation.
Ariyawansa said ragging is a serious crime under the law. “The police are ready to support universities to track down on organised criminal activities likes these.’’

He said the landlord is also a witness.Meanwhile, the Dean of the agriculture faculty, Professor D K N Pushpakumara said the victimis were given safe lodgings and have been asked to join a supplementary class to build their leadership skills while undergoing counselling.
He also said that the second year students too acted on the pressure brought on by seniors and political parties. Manipulation should be exposed and stopped.

The Vice Chancellor of the Peradeniya University said the university will also carry out a formal inquiry.
“We have suspended the 15 students till the end of inquiry. After that the university will decide weather to suspend them further or expel them,’’ he said.

He promised stern action against perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the University Grants Commission, Chairman, Dr Mohan de Silva urged potential victims to make use of channels for complaints.
They can call on 011 813456 and 011 123712. Complaints can be filed via the UGC website. Videos and voice recordings can be submitted.
He said information about verbal and physical violence and gender based violence will be recorded and handed over to university administrators.

Prof de SIlva said the panel handling the system will be chaired by professor Uma Kumaraswami.
But a student said undergraduates were not aware of the website.

Extremist politics and abuse at universities in Sri Lanka are intertwined, academics say. This was among the views expressed by academics at a special session on higher education at an international industrial mathematics conference.Professor Sunethra Weerakoon described ragging as an extension of intimidation, bullying, thuggery, and assault.

Heads of universities noted that political extremism and ragging were interlinked.Academics also discussed on and off-campus ragging as well as individual and organised abuse.“Freshers are also being used to collect money for older students against their will,’’ Prof Weerakoon said. The lack of empowerment of students who opposed ragging in universities was also discussed.Professor Narada Warnasuriya, said there were discussions on politicisation and it revealed that the university subculture is nurtured by the students with extreme political views. They impose their views on freshers through abuse.He added that hostility and aggression are fuel for provoking protests.

Aggression is generated due to deficiencies of student facilities and over crowding as well as issues such as the poor quality of canteen food. These become fodder for political parties and student unions.Academics outlined some ideas such as making it compulsory for students to attend a class at the beginning of the year when they will be advised and warned of the consequences of ragging.


Sabaragamuwa University Vice Chancellor, Professor Chandana P Udawatte said that last week three undergraduates were expelled for assaulting a third year student three months ago for not attending a union meeting.
“I was informed by the doctor treating the victim, that his ear has been seriously damaged and was not sure he would recover,” he said.
The three suspect abusers, J L H Nawanga, J D Layan Rupasinghe and P K Eranga, were sacked after an inquiry.
“I submitted the letter to them last week, they and their parents understood the gravity of their actions, but now it’s too late. Such intimidation is not allowed,’’ he said, adding that the suspects had appealed. “We have appointed another committee to consider the appeal.’

The chairman of the Federation of the University Teachers Association, Nirmal Ranjith Devasri, told the Sunday Times that teachers stand against ragging, but that undergraduates themselves should abstain from abuse.
“The university is not a school where staff need to intervene to stop ragging. But students with an anti ragging mentality should be empowered,’’ he said.

Former FUTA president and senior lecturer, Professor Chandraguptha Thenuwara said that ragging breaks a student’s mind and turns them into slaves of the “student unions” and political parties. He said ragging is the only way to assemble massive crowds for protests.
He said ragging had become violent. It is used to force students to engage in politics against their will, or to sideline those who oppose the activity.

He said most students end up mentally unfit while some recover.
“At the same time, some students become violent and continue to oppress others being a threat to society, while others commit suicide.’’
Another former FUTA president, Dr Rangika Halwatura, said ragging was a result of the inability of the academic staff to win the trust of freshers. If academic staff earn the trust of freshers, newcomers could be given the right guidance.
The Inter University Students’ Federation, convener, Lahiru Weerasekara, condemned ragging. He said politics is part of university life but groups who use force will not prevail. “The times have changed and ragging should change.’’

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.