Commotion as college hosts Lankan students

The Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts in Trichy has had to pay a heavy price for hosting Sri Lankan students at its premises. Volunteers of Naam Thamizhar stormed the institution accusing them of harbouring Sri Lankan nationals and conducting cultural programmes with the latter. As soon as the news that about 70 A-level (equivalent to Plus Two) students of Sri Lanka had landed in the college broke out, Naam Thamizhar volunteers staged a dharna in front the college demanding cancellation of all programmes involving the Lankans with immediate effect.

A police team led by assistant commissioner Gandhi visited the college after getting wind of the protest, and stopped a cultural programme that was scheduled at 2 pm.

Both the Sri Lankan students and the college management paid a heavy price for not taking into consideration the ground realities existing in Tamil Nadu, and the strong anti-Sri Lankan sentiment blowing in the southern parts of the state. “Had I known that this was such a serious issue, we would not have entertained the students at all,” Dr Margaret Bastin, principal of the college told TOI.

In fact, it was the last aided college started in the state in August 1996 with recognition of the Government of Tamil Nadu for teaching South Indian classical music and dance. The college belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Trichy, and it was here that the late poet Kannadasan translated the Bible into poetic verses in Tamil titled “Yesu Kaviyam”.

It was a Sri Lankan Tamil Catholic woman in her late 30s who had brought the Sri Lankan students to Chennai. The woman, whose identity has not been not revealed, had come to Kalai Kaviri using her Catholic credentials, and managed to forge a friendship with the management. In fact, the students were taken to Velankanni church on Wednesday and returned to Trichy the same day. Margaret told TOI that they allowed the students on humanitarian grounds and served them food since it would be very expensive for them outside. Since the college pleaded its inability to accommodate all the students overnight, they were taken to a lodge in Samayapuram and stayed there overnight on Wednesday.

They were scheduled to stage a cultural performance at the college at 2 pm on Thursday, which was stopped. The college neither sponsored the students, nor had they anything to do with the Sri Lankan students, except that the mystery woman had been given a warm treatment as she happened to a Catholic.

Gandhi blasted the college principal saying, “For you, it is merely a dance and song programme, but for us it is a perennial political headache”. The principal later told TOI that she was never exposed to such harsh language before, and had to pay a huge price for something that was not her fault. However, she admitted that she was naive enough not to have known the implications of allowing Sri Lankan students at this juncture. (TOI)