Increasing violence on campus

Karachi, Sept 21: The previous week witnessed violent clashes between student organisations affiliated with various political parties. These organisations have begun using arms to settle differences with the result that several students have lost their lives and educational activities at several colleges and universities have suffered tremendously.

Last week, a minibus was attacked just outside the University of Karachi claiming the lives of at least four KU students. Just one day earlier, firing was reported during students' week activities on the KU campus.

At least eight years have elapsed since a student was killed on campus due to a violent clash between rival students' organisations, while it has been well over a decade since the KU campus reverberated with the sounds of automatic weapons being fired. This grave renewal of previous trends in violence on campus is a cause for serious concern.

Major students' organisations arrange supposedly peaceful and academic activities such as book fairs, seminars, and talk shows in order to lure newly admitted students of apolitical dispositions into their folds.

However, once such unsuspecting and proficient students are taken into the folds of various students' organisations, they are exploited to further political agendas.

In numerous cases, student organisations have been found guilty of interfering in management issues, results, examination papers and departmental affairs. They have also been known to threaten and beat up teachers over attendance issues and marks.

Moreover, several teachers support those political parties that are part of the ruling coalition in order to get undue promotions. Most of the time, when senior professors or lecturers refuse to comply with these unethical requests, they receive threats and are beaten by members of these organisations.

A large number of students complain against a religiously inclined organisation whose members threaten boys found sitting with girls on campus and often beat them up. The University administration refuses to take action and this has adversely affected the campus environment. Stories of remorselessly torturing innocent students are also common in KU. However, clashes usually arise over 'possession' of colleges and universities but they may even arise from something as trivial as an activist of a student group staring at one from the rival group. For several years, clashes reportedly involved sticks, rods and stones. Activists broke chairs and made sticks from them or used beverage bottles as weapons.

Also whenever clashes erupted between student organisations, they called upon their colleagues outside university for help. Such people bring arms to augment violent clashes. It is noted that those who bring these arms have gate passes and are not stopped and subjected to the usual extensive rounds of questioning. According to police data, in 2007 alone there have been at least 22 clashes on campuses in which three have been killed and 17 injured. Main student parties involved include IJT, APMSO, PSA, PSF, JSSF and BSO.

Ironically, at the time of admission, the University authorities require an affidavit that states that the student, if found participating in political activities, will be expelled from the institution. Contrary to this document, the administration of KU and those of various other educational institutions have repeatedly failed to comply with its terms, with the result that student political parties continue to thrive.

Furthermore, the Sindh Rangers were deputed to stop these clashes as far back as 1989 and are still present in these institutions. However, even though numerous clashes have been reported, the Rangers have failed to control the situation and argue that they are the 'back-up' force. The police are not allowed to interfere within the limits of institutions but when called upon, it was observed that they came to help control violence on campus. It is clear however that the Rangers are not doing their job.
salis.perwaiz@thenews.com.pk (The News)

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