Published: 23rd November 2017
Sathyabama violence shouldn't surprise us: Engg students in TN take to arson quite often
In the last two years alone, at least two instances of Engineering students vandalising and attacking colleges and setting fire to property have been reported
As the blackened remains of sheets and hostel furniture are cleared away at Sathyabama University, the surprise and outrage at how students can react in so violent a manner are apparent on social media. But the real question here is: Why are we even surprised?
Let's also admit it. Arson is on our mind.
According to the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS) report for 2016, there were 25,897 fire accidents of varying degrees in 2016
The value of property lost by their estimate is Rs 43.03 crore
There were 9710 cases of arson (deliberately setting things on fire) reported in 2015 according to the NCRB's Crime in India report
Tamil Nadu had the fourth highest number of arson cases in India after Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra
Tamil Nadu had 677 cases registered that year. The pendancy rate, indicating that they were never solved nor were people arrested, remains at 85 percent
In the last 18 months, in Tamil Nadu alone, this is the third time that college property has been vandalised by students and set on fire when they've had an altercation with the management. The first incident was largely swept under the carpet because it was a college that was in a rural pocket — according to reports, hostel students of the Thangyammal Engineering College in Rasipuram went on a rampage in May 2016 and damaged cots, hostel rooms and set the block on fire. Why? Because two students who had protested against bad hostel facilities had been suspended by the management.
The result? Instant arson. After all the bad publicity the authorities brushed it off as 'hot-headedness' that comes with young blood. They still had to shut the college hostel for a week and send students back home.
Fiery mob: In the last 18 months, in Tamil Nadu alone, this is the third time that college property has been vandalised by students and set on fire when they've had an altercation with the management
This year, closer to Chennai (and Sathyabama), there was a chillingly similar incident: students of the Dhanalakshmi Srinivasan Engineering College went on a destruction run and damaged property, torching a few mattresses and pillows, after a student committed suicide.
Reports suggest that Sugantha Veerapandiyan, a farmer's son, committed suicide in July 2017, after he was unable to pay his semester fees and was allegedly derided by his teacher. Again, the students were so incensed that they demanded the ouster of the HOD and the Principal and when they didn't get their way, they resorted to — you guessed it — violence. The college was shut for a week.
Here's why it's not surprising.
Not only are Engineering College students more prone to wanton violence because of the otherwise authoritarian conditions they are forced to study in, the tendency to set things on fire stems from a mob mentality that does not stop at just breaking things. "When they set things on fire, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with having completely destroyed it. This is psychological, though I suspect that most of them just do it for kicks and misplaced emotion. There are plenty of watchers and very few active doers," said a police officer who has dealt with campus violence at Presidency College and other places.