Section of students blocks road; traffic diverted

After a long pause, the American College campus once again witnessed unruly scenes and violence as a section of students resorted to a flash stir against a group of teachers who were observing a token fast on the campus here on Monday.

In the absence of a strong contingent of armed police, some students abused the staff members observing fast from a mobile public address system. They did not stop there. The students, to counter the staff agitation, announced a ‘biriyani' feast. At around 11.30 a.m., trouble started as the students allegedly hurled stones and damaged vehicles parked inside the campus.

Tension gripped the area as the irate mob went on the rampage and damaged two-wheelers and four-wheelers parked on the campus. The situation looked like a “free-for-all” for almost 30 minutes.

They damaged furniture in a few residential quarters as well. Police rushed to the spot and arrested a few of the accused as many of the students allegedly escaped from the campus by scaling the wall near Panagal Road, the staff said.

According to a senior police officer, the section of students (who went on a rampage) was supporting the Madurai CSI Bishop Christopher Asir's moves, while the staff members observing hunger strike were followers of former Principal T. Chinnaraj Joseph Jaikumar. While the Bishop's supporters abused the opponent group, the teachers demanded legal action against the Bishop and his associates.

Road blockade

As the police action was not convincing, students supporting the Chinnaraj Joseph group came to the road demanding arrest of persons who had indulged in violence. As a result, traffic was diverted on the Goripalayam stretch of arterial Alagarkoil Road for close to two hours. At around 2.15 p.m., the police arrested 141 students, including 12 girls, on the charge of blocking the road. In the evening, they were all released, police said.

Vehicular movement went for a toss for well over two hours from 11.30 a.m. Traffic had to be diverted at various intersections including Periyar Statue, Gandhi Museum, Collectorate and Goripalayam. Vehicles moving from northern side of the city towards Periyar Bus Stand and in the opposite direction experienced a long queue.

The automatic signals were switched off and manual system of directing vehicles created chaos at many stretches. The worst affected was the movement on the Kuruvikaran Salai Road as a TNSTC city bus suffered a break-down, police said.

At least two emergency services, which were on their way to the Government Rajaji Hospital from Tamukkam could pass the American College stretch only with police assistance, public said.

Though a large posse of police personnel led by DCP (Law and Order) K.P. Selva Kumari and DCP (Traffic) J. Rajendran among other officers were at the campus, delayed action led to anxiety and anger among the students and staff. “We do not have any clear order from the higher-ups to deal with the issue” an officer admitted.

As news of the agitation spread, anxious parents came to the college, but stayed away fearing trouble. Some of them expressed concern and were curious to know from the police as to when the trouble would get resolved.

Many others said that the college remained closed for the last 92 days and the future of over 3,000 students was in a limbo.

Trouble had erupted when the staffers at the main gate had objected to the entry of some retired staff, public and students while allowing “unknown” elements, an advocate who visits the chapel to offer prayers regularly on Sundays, said.

Tallakulam police have registered cases. Further investigation is on.

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