: It now appears that engineering student Deepak (20) might not have died only because he pushed aside a few seniors to drink water at the college. Inquiries with the college and students pointed at the possibility of group rivalry behind his death. This incident could have only been the flashpoint. Superintendent of Police P. Kannammal, however, said that no complaint about any group rivalry had been made so far.

Authorities of Gnanamani Group of Institutions said that students from Kerala had formed at least seven groups and were staying in rented houses and not in the hostel. This problem has been persisting since 2007 and there have been various instances of student groups settling scores with each other.

Authorities of some other colleges here also expressed similar views, pointing out that students were out of their control as they did not stay in the hostels. These students stayed in the hostels in the first year of their course but shifted to private rented accommodations from the second year onwards.

Admitting that thousands of students from Kerala accounted for a major share of their student strength, college managements here claimed that once the students left the hostel, they joined one of the groups. Each group had a name and even collected membership fee. On the composition of a typical group, the representative of one of the institutions said that each of these had members from all colleges in Namakkal, Rasipuram and Tiruchengode taluks in Namakkal district, and that it was not a case of one group having members only from one college or a particular batch. Students of colleges in Tiruchengode stay in Erode.

Similarly those studying in Rasipuram colleges stay in Salem as these places are not very far from their institutions in Namakkal. This extends the presence of these groups to Salem and Erode districts as well. In their first year, the students approach their teachers when they are in trouble, but the group takes over from the second year, the representative added. Some of the first year students said that they had no choice but to join one of these gangs.

“This culture mushroomed in 2007. We made many representations to the police, District Administration and the Chief Minister’s Cell to put an end to this menace. But no action has been taken,” Chairman of Gnanamani Education Institutionss T. Arangannal said. Authorities of colleges fear revenge for the latest incident and lament that parents of the students never came to the institutions to know how their wards fared.