On day one of college reopening, students clash; police arrest five, launch hunt for 42 more

In the aftermath of a fresh clash in Presidency College on Thursday, five students have been arrested and remanded for assaulting their fellow students with knives, bottles and sticks. The college reopened on Thursday after being shut for almost two weeks, due to a series of tumultuous incidents post the student union elections. On Thursday, classes proceeded up until 11 a.m., when a group of students sitting under a tree near the canteen was attacked by another group. Both the groups were from Ennore. “The students who were attacked had supported the victorious candidate instead of the candidate endorsed by the other group,” said a student.

A police officer from the Anna Square police station who arrived at the college after the existing police posse on campus were unable to deal with the situation, said the attack was planned. “We cornered all the 25 students initially because we had to separate the assailants from the victims. Many of them gave us fake names and we had to verify the information using their ID cards,” he said. Three large knives, bottles and sticks were recovered.

Police officials who questioned the five remanded students said they had been planning the attack because “it was tradition to punish those who betrayed.”

“They did not even think about the gravity of their offence. They told us it had been happening for the last 20 years and so they felt they should do it too,” said a senior police official. All the arrested students have been sent to Saidapet Prison.

Among the arrested students are Satish Kumar (19), a first-year student of zoology, Sasi Kumar (19), a first-year student of political science – both from Presidency College, Balaji (21), a second-year economics student at Loyola College, Suresh (17), a student of ITI in Mint and Arun Kumar (19) of Tiruvottiyur. Arun Kumar is a former student of Presidency College, who discontinued his studies after his second year.

Many students and miscreants who accompanied them, escaped amidst the police intervention. Police sources said they are on a look-out for 42 other students who have been found to have engaged in violence over the last two weeks.

Cases were booked and charges of rioting were registered against the five youths. Two persons injured in the clash were admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. However, the police were unable to get them to file a complaint as another group of students reached the hospital and took the two injured students away after threatening them against filing a complaint, sources added.

One of the oldest arts colleges in the country, Presidency College boasts of many renowned alumni, including famous administrators and Nobel laureates. “But in the last three years, the situation has become unmanageable, mainly because there is violence almost every other week. Many senior professors are of the opinion that the college should put an end to elections which have led to most of this violence, but we had to give in to pressure from the students,” said a senior professor in the physics department.

The students are also divided into different groups, depending on the bus route they take. “There are 27H, 6G, 2A and many others. We are thinking of counselling them in groups, and also calling their parents if needed,” said a senior professor.

All the newly-elected student representatives have extended their support to the administration in this regard.

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