Inter University Students' Federation

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Inter University Students' Federation (Sinhalese: අන්තර් විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයීය ශිෂ්‍ය බලමණ්ඩලය) aka anthare is a students' union affiliated to a Marxist-Leninistin Sri Lanka.[1][2][3][4]

Overview[edit]

IUSF comprises student unions representing four main universities in Sri Lanka. They are University of Peradeniya, University of Kelaniya, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and University of Ruhuna. Several student unions from other universities also come under the IUSF. The sole official of the union is known as the convener. Convener carries out all administrative and legal work on behalf of the union. Inter University Bhikku Federation is an affiliated organization to IUSF.

History[edit]

As reforms were initiated in Sri Lanka in 1977, the student movement expressed dissent towards the reforms. Inter University Students’ Federation was formed in 1978, with a formation of a leftist mass movement and Shantha Bandara, a student in the science faculty of University of Peradeniya, was elected as its first convener.

1985 became a landmark year to the student movement, giving birth to the struggle against the private medical college of Colombo North, established in 1981. This protracted struggle had to be fought until 1988. 129 students, including Padmasiri Thrimavithana and Venura Edirisinghe were martyred during this struggle. As a consequence of students’ opposition the government finally was compelled to nationalize the private medical college in 1988.

Meanwhile, in May 1987 the government decided to ban the May Day celebrations. At that point, there was neither a strong workers’ movement nor strong opposition to combat this repressive measures. Student movement took the initiative of challenging the government anti may day resolutions and organized a May day celebration defying state restrictions. This celebration was attacked by the state forces and Kithsiri Mevan Ranawaka of Jaywardhanapura University got killed in a police shooting. In 1987 the Indo-Lanka accord was signed. Widespread protests occurred against the Indian occupation and the student movement actively took part in these protests.

By the dawn of the 1990s, 11 conveners of the IUSF were among the dead. Over 627 university students were either murdered or disappeared. It is estimated that over 5000 school students got killed. During this white terror, over 60,000 young people were reported having been killed. By 1992, the entire students movement had come to a standstill.

In 2001 another attempt was made to establish private universities. Over 10 000 students came out in protests. This militant resistance compelled the ruling elite to with draw its attempt. Further attempts of privatization proposed by “regaining Sri Lanka” programme (2002-2004) and Thara – Harald report (2005) were defeated by the student movement.

Protests and campaigns[edit]

First campaign of the union was against the revoking of rice welfare given to people who suffered from poverty. Then it conducted similar protests against the infamous "White Paper on Education" in 1981, prohibition of May day and plans to set up North Colombo Medical College in the early 1980s. Due to these protests, it was prohibited in 1984. The ban was lifted few years later. IUSF states its mission is ..to save free education and [act] against the privatization of education that turns education in to a commodity. In recent times, most of its campaigns were against the plans to set up private higher educational institutions on the grounds of destroying free education which existed in the country since 1 October 1945.[5] It claims that it is the front in saving free education and academic and welfare matters in education.

Notable leaders[edit]

Criticism[edit]

Conduct of the student union has drawn much criticism in media and university administrations. As a result, University of Jaffna banned IUSF from entering to the university premises in June 2010.[14] Previously, University of Colombo and University of Moratuwa have taken steps to ban the student group from the university. IUSF has been accused of the murder of Samantha Vithanage, a third year Management student of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, who pioneered an anti-ragging campaign in the university.[15]

Strikes[edit]

IUSF admits that it uses strikes as the primary method to meet their demands as it sees no other plausible way.[16] This has raised number of issues regarding the student discipline. Boycotting lectures has caused delays in student graduation time and cancellation of studentships in number of occasions.[17]

Ragging[edit]

IUSF is also criticized for not being able to take necessary action to prevent ragging in Sri Lankan universities. Instead, rival groups such as International Students for Social Equality have suggested that IUSF uses ragging as a means of attracting a following among more backward students.[18] At the beginning, ragging served as a social equalizer in the universities. But with the emergence of JVP-backed student unions such as IUSF, ragging has served primarily to ensure the continuing domination of JVP political power within the universities, academics suggest.[19]

Political intolerance[edit]

Violence inside universities has steadily increased due to political intolerance. IUSF has been accused of obstructing and engineering clashes with rival political groups inside universities.[20][21] In 2009, Prof. Nalin de Silva - Dean of the faculty of Science at the University of Kelaniya - complained that pro-JVP IUSF students have threatened him with death for not agreeing to their political ideologies.[22]

Picketings[edit]

Picketing is another form of protest employed by IUSF to meet their demands by forcing the government. The purpose of most of those protests refers to the protection of "Free Education System" and protecting the student rights. Picketings around Lipton Circus, Maradana and the country's busiest urbs has become common in the recent times. These picketings usually cause traffic jams and chaos in the city with police using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the gathering. This has resulted in public inconvenience.[23][24][25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sri Lanka Marxist student union lodges complaint with HRC". Colombo Page. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  2. ^ "Police repression unleashed against Sri Lankan university students". Trans Currents. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  3. ^ "Sri Lankan regime keeps student union convener detained". International Students for Social Equility. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  4. ^ "President moves to stop student strike". The Sunday Times. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  5. ^ "Protests over an opening of private Medical Faculty". Sri Lanka Guardian. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  6. ^ "Transcripts from the campaign trail, November is for remembering". The Island. 2001. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  7. ^ "Creators and destroyers of Peradeniya". The Island. 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  8. ^ "Six injured in varsity clash". Daily News. 2004. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  9. ^ "JVP accused of inciting violence". LankaPuvath. 2008. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  10. ^ "Universities in turmoil with clashes and staff shortages". The Sunday Times. 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  11. ^ "Udul Premaratne is no more a university undergraduate". LankaPuvath. 2008. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  12. ^ "Sanjeewa Bandara is the new convener of IUSF". LankaTruth. 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  13. ^ "New convener of IUSF". 
  14. ^ "SL bans student group from Jaffna campus". The Nation. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  15. ^ "PM orders report on murder of J'pura student". Daily News. 2002. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  16. ^ "Rational politicisation acceptable to all". The Sunday Observer. 2008. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  17. ^ "Indiscipline in Sri Lanka universities: Ranjit Ruberu". Tamil Canadian. 2003. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  18. ^ "Sri Lankan government revives law to suppress student protests". World Socialist Web Site. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  19. ^ "The Fundamental Threat to Sri Lankan University Education: Prof. Shantha K. Hennayake". Asian Tribune. 2008. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  20. ^ "Kelaniya clash: Dispute over who attacked whom". The Sunday Times. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01. [dead link]
  21. ^ "Kelaniya University: Students see sinister plan behind clash". The Nation. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  22. ^ "JVP undergrads threatened me with death – Prof Nalin De Silva" (PDF). The Island. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  23. ^ "Police warn of crackdown as JVP slams Govt. over suppression of students' rights". The Island. 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  24. ^ "Police beat back student demo". LankaNewspapers. 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 
  25. ^ "Sri Lankan Police attacks to undergraduates again". Sri Lanka Guardian. 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 

External links[edit]