Colombo, Education, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Youth

A turn for the worse? Undergraduate protests and unrest in Sri Lanka

View Student unrest in Sri Lanka in a larger map.

Recent months in Sri Lanka have seen a dramatic increase in the number of protests involving thousands of university students, many of which have turned violent. An online poll by the Daily Mirror has, out of 795 votes to date, 79% agreeing that the involvement of university students in politics has far exceeded limits and needs to be curtailed. Some University lecturers have also found fault with themselves for the growing unrest. As leading regional media has noted,

Like the Left in India, the Marxist Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP), or the People’s Liberation Front here has a strong student base in universities. Now, the government has accused it of trying to exploit that support – through the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) – to whip up a students’ unrest, a wave of which has engulfed six of the 15 major universities. Vice-chancellors were assaulted; students have fought among themselves; exams disrupted and campus property destroyed. Nearly 200 undergraduates were suspended. Earlier in October, hundreds besieged the higher education ministry office, demanding the release of six students arrested earlier. Then the riot police took over and 18 more were detained.

Student unrest brings back memories of JVP insurgencies, Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times

Vikalpa captured these images at recent demonstrations in Colombo by undergrads protesting the lack of job opportunities (first set) and against the Vice-Chancellor of the Sri Jayawardhanapura University, recently embroiled in a bizarre controversy that has clearly incensed sections of the student body.