Employees of IT companies on Monday joined students in the anti-Sri Lanka protests, which spread to more educational institutions in the city and forced Anna University to announce an indefinite closure of all its constituent colleges.
On Monday, nearly 150 employees of reputed IT companies were seen distributing pamphlets on Sri Lankan war crimes to passengers in suburban trains, urging them to express support for the student movement.
“We want IT employees to understand that the students’ demands are justified. They are asking for a referendum which is the only solution for Tamils. This is not on the agenda of any government,” said Syed Kadhar of the Save Tamils Movement, which brings together employees of different software corporations in the city.
Medicos join in
Nearly 400 students from government medical colleges also held protest meetings on Monday. Students from various courses, including medicine, nursing and pharmacy, squatted in front of the collector’s office and held placards demanding an independent inquiry into the civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.
“The US does not call it genocide. We want India to call for a probe by the United Nations without interference from any country. We also want the Central government to ensure that Tamil Nadu’s fishermen are not attacked,” said G. Kamalesh, coordinator of Tamil Nadu Medical Students' Association.
Cine fraternity too
The movement also received a boost when the cinema fraternity pledged its support. Sources said the Tamil Nadu Film Directors Association and the Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council will go on a one-day fast alongside small-screen technicians and actors at Valluvar Kottam on Tuesday.
Anna University, which saw a gathering of more than 700 protesting students, asked its female students to vacate the campus by Tuesday morning and male students by 9 p.m. on Monday. “The administration had warned us of suspension if we participated in any protests. But we wanted to be heard,” said Kathirvalan, a student who was one of the many shouting slogans against the Sri Lankan government, as part of a day-long protest.
Several of the 450 engineering colleges affiliated to Anna University — which had been asked to make their own decisions regarding conduct of classes — also decided to suspend classes by evening, announcing indefinite closure. By late evening, students were seen crowding the Central station and Koyembedu bus stand, making arrangements to reach their hometowns.
“We were given a four-hour deadline to vacate the hostels. Nearly 60 of us are leaving for Kerala by the next available train in the general compartment,” said a student of Asan College of Engineering.
Several other students from various districts of Tamil Nadu decided to take a bus from CMBT. In some colleges, students were given time until Wednesday to vacate hostels. “But the canteen facilities have been shut and we have asked not to leave the hostel premises. Even the entry of visitors has been barred,” said Anmol Shah, a student of a deemed university here.
In many private colleges, parents and guardians have been asked to come and take their wards home. “It has been brought to our notice that several of our students have been taking part in protest activities of other colleges. We are responsible for them, and so we don’t want them to leave from here and join the protesters,” said R.M. Rao, chairman of a city –based private institute.
Earlier in the day, several students of Dr. Ambedkar University and many private engineering colleges protested in front of the Saidapet Court. The protesters, nearly 500 of them, were rallying towards Raj Bhavan when they were stopped by barricades and ropes.
“We were packed off in nine buses and taken to the YMCA grounds in Nandanam YMCA, where we were kept till 6 p.m. and then released,” said Dhiviya, a student.
Last week, the government had asked arts and sciences colleges to close down following the rising number of college students taking part in the protests.
Tuesday will also see business in Koyambedu affected as over 3,000 shops in the flower, fruits and vegetable sections of the market will remain closed. Members of the federation of Koyambedu wholesale market traders said trade would be suspended between 10 p.m. on Monday and 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The 600-700 lorries that bring produce to the Koyambedu market every day will be diverted to other places. A demonstration will also be held at the market.
The unrest is likely to continue until March 21, when the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka is expected to come up for voting at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.