Insight into South Asia

Chennai College Fight Culture – Memories from the past

The Chennai Ambedkar Law College incident seem to have deep political and caste roots and is revealing many neglected aspects of education system. The exhibited desire of students to experiment valor and take pride at it needs to be addressed as part of the college curriculum. I think students need to be exposed to “Problem Resolution” techniques.

This event brings back memories of similar incidents during my college years at Loyola. Incidents such as this are familiar for most college goers and in Chennai inter collegiate rivalry run high especially during cultural events.

The year was 1992 and the stage was set for one of the most prestigious intercollegiate festivals of Chennai – “The Down Sterling” organized by the students and authorities of Loyola College. There used to be a popular saying then in Chennai on profiles of students based on their college: – The Saints of Vivekananda, Slaves of Loyola, Drug Addicts of MCC and Porukkis of Pachayappa’s. A Loyola student would however correct it as “Lords of Loyola”.

It was usual for the Pachayappa’s college students to come in large number to “Down Sterling” and dominate all the events. However this year due to a small disturbance caused by some groups from New College students in Loyola Campus earlier that year, the Loyola and Pachayappa’s college students have joined hands and made elaborate preparations to “handle” any New College students that try to create problems. Uruttu Kattais (Log Woods) were hidden at several strategic locations in the college. Loyola students had invited Pachayappa’s friends to help with any potential disturbances. The Loyola student union leader and his group had prepared very well to face any untoward incidents during the event.

But the turn of events had a big surprise for everybody.

As usual several of the events were dominated by the unruly crowd from Pachayappa’s. Many Loyola students were disappointed when the girls from the women colleges they had invited left the event due to this. Several events were proceeding at different locations – Bertram Hall, The Library etc and the Soccer ground. The Music competition was taking place at the soccer ground where a grand stage had been designed and erected by Thotta Dharani. When it was the turn of the Pachayappa’s college to go on stage a huge crowd went up the stage and started singing some “gana” songs. Suddenly the crowd at the far end (close to the Church) stated running away towards the Church and the Library Hall. Some students were shouting from there that Pachayappas college students are being beaten up in the Library.

The Pachayappa’s student singing at the stage, not realizing that his college students are being beaten, was frustrated seeing the crowd leaving the area and sang “odi pora *** pasangalaa…” in the tune of Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan’s country song. Soon we noticed that one student was being chased by a crowd of Loyola students and being beaten up with uruttu kattais. Soon all Pachayappa’s college students were seen running in all directions. We came to know then that a fight has started in the Library Hall involving Pachayappas and Loyola students. Loyola students had lost their patience with the unruly behavior of Pachayappa students in the event and have started chasing them away from the event.

Several Loyola students had formed groups and started chasing the Pachayappas students. Pachayappa students were outnumbered and a handful of them were beaten-up at various locations inside the campus. We witnessed a couple of those students being beaten-up by our friends. Girls were adviced to go to the Chemistry block and were escorted to the back entrance leading to the Numngambakkam Railway station. The college main entrance gate was closed and any Pachayappas student trying to sneak out was man handled and beaten-up. Few innocent (appavi/gnanapalam) Pachayappa students were caught and given royal treatment (u know what I mean).

The injured students of Pachayappa were then taken to the Bertram Hall. The college principal had called the police and crowds were asked to leave peacefully. All further events were cancelled.

In the next few days, we started hearing stories of Loyola students getting hit at several nearby areas by Pachayappa students. Students were advised not to venture alone in and around Pachayappa college campus. But the backlash was growing. The college authorities decided to shut down the college for two weeks. The Down Sterling event was also banned by the Loyola authorities and no intercollegiate festivals were to take place in Loyola in the coming years.

Looking back I realize that the incident would have left a permanent mark in the lives of several of the students who got hurt. There is always a section among the students that want to encourage violence and engage in fights. The challenge to college authorities is to identify disputes early on and engage the student groups to solve the dispute in a more cultured way.

Feel free to share your college experiences.

Filed under: Culture, , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Saran Sankar says:

    Nice narration.

    The whole “Law College” episode was sad and disgusting. If these are the who are going to be “upholding” the law for the land, I wonder where we are headed and what else is in store for us. I remember seeing scenes of future lawyers brandishing weapons and police being mute spectators as portrayed in movies of yesteryears. It was unfortunate to realize that these are very much part of our contemporary society.

    Saran Sankar

  2. Deann says:

    just came across. Nice blog

  3. Prakash says:

    College rivalry “could” be taken in reasonably lighter vein than a rivalry of caste – that too among students. Is this kind of casteism because of government policies or politicians or both ? Sad when you have the age by your side, wisdom is away and when wisdom is near by, only blog is the vent out 🙂

  4. Jose Thomas says:

    nice blog, atleast came to know about what actually happened. well am a proud loyolite and have heard a lot about this mega event. Sad that all these things happen and really hop this event gets hosted again.

  5. Interesting article, i have bookmarked your blog for future referrence

  6. karthik says:

    interesting article. thanks. 🙂

  7. tony says:

    92 down sterling was remarkable hats off to sociology dept

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