There is something very organised about the students’ fasts and protests in campuses across the State. In addition to the similarity in demands, it is also clear that the protests have fed off each other. “It is not often that you see State-wide student protests. But after the pictures of Prabhakaran’s son were released, there has been a sense of unrest on campus” said R. Sundaram, a professor in an Arts College.
The mobilisation has, on the main, not been with the support of political outfits. “While in Presidency and Pachaiyappa’s, the movements are backed by organisations such as the SFI or RSFI, the Law College mostly has informal associations formed at various points of time,” said Karthik, a student activist. While some said the movement was backed by Jesuit organisations, particularly the All India Catholic University Federation, others said the influence is restricted to Loyola College alone.
In the last one week, at least four groups in support of the Tamil nationalist cause have formed in city colleges. “There have been a number of visitors to hostels, including political leaders. Even the dorms have been cleaned to host meetings where they make plans with students,” said a student of a government college. The fast at Loyola College was started by a group called Students against Genocide with representatives from Presidency College, Madras Christian College, Loyola College and Anna University. In Madurai, students said the protests were backed by a group called Students Federation for Freedom of Tamil Eelam.
“It is very difficult to organise protests mainly because most colleges do not have politically active campuses. It is also difficult to ensure the protest is maintained. We used social media and SMSs in addition to campaigning extensively among friends and personal contacts. After a while, students of every college wanted to associate with the movement because others were already active,” said Balu, a student of Presidency College.
On Facebook, there are at least five pages on the Loyola hunger strike, wherein student associations notify members about the protests in the respective colleges
Some students expressed reservations at the implications of shutting the colleges down.
“They did the same thing when Muthukumaran immolated himself for the Tamil cause, or when students staged protests against Dharmapuri riots. Instead of suppressing student voices, the State government should listen to what they want to say,” said Ajay, a research scholar here.
Many engineering students too support the protests. There is substantial support in Anna University but the movement is being suppressed by university authorities.
“We were told to leave campus after noon today,” said a student. While most engineering colleges have not received any notification of closure, they are expecting one soon.