Inter University Students' Federation
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.
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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
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. It claims that it is the front in saving free education and academic and welfare matters in education.
- Shantha Bandara - Founding leader and the first convener of IUSF. Drop-out of University of Peradeniya and a prominent leader of JVP. Involved in the unsuccessful JVP insurrection during 1987-1989. Killed in January 1990.
- Sunil Handunnetti - Former convener of the IUSF, member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, member of the central committee of JVP and contested the 2010 Sri Lanka Parliamentary elections under the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), which is led by former army chief Sarath Fonseka and was re-elected to Parliament from the Colombo District.
- Ranjitham Gunaratnam - Former convener of the IUSF and a drop out of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya. He was the leader of the Peradeniya AC (Action Committee) in 1985, a JVP Central Committee Member and its Kurunegala District leader. Gunaratnam was abducted in December 1989, detained, tortured and killed at Wehera, Kurunegala. Corrections required here: Ranjtham Gunaratnam was not the leader of Peradeniya AC in 1985. The leader (we called the position as convener) of Peradeniya AC in 1985 was Gunapala Gajanayake, a student from the Faculty of Engineering. He was not a member of the JVP or its student arm, Samajavadee Sishya Sangamaya (Socialist Student Union) like Ranjitham.
- Ravindra Mudalige - Former convener of the IUSF.
- Chameera Koswatta - Former convener of the IUSF, JVP Chief Ministerial candidate for Sabaragamuwa Province at the provincial elections 2008.
- Duminda Nagamuwa - Former convener of the IUSF (May 2004 to February 2008), drop-out of the Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya and JVP Chief Ministerial candidate for Western Province at the provincial elections 2009.
- Udul Premaratne - Former convener of the IUSF (February 2008 to January 2011), drop-out of the Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya.
- Sanjeewa Bandara - Former convener of the IUSF. A student of University of Ruhuna.
- Najith Indika - Former convener of the IUSF. A student of Colombo University Medical Faculty 
- Lahiru Weerasekara - Present convener of the IUSF. A student of Rajarata University of Sri Lanka , Faculty of Applied Sciences
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. 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.
IUSF admits that it uses strikes as the primary method to meet their demands as it sees no other plausible way. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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