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Annamalai University tense, bodies being flown out

Chennai, March 3 (IANS) The situation is tense at Tamil Nadu’s Annamalai University after the ‘accidental’ deaths of four students from Bihar and Jharkhand. Even as their bodies are being flown out Wednesday, classes have been suspended and hostels too are being vacated.

‘The bodies of the four students have been handed over to their parents. After embalming at the Government General Hospital in Chennai, they will be taken to their native place by flight this evening,’ M. Ramanathan, vice chancellor, Annamalai University, told IANS over phone from Chidambaram, around 230 km from here.

He said the university campus has been closed for an unspecified period and students living in hostels had been asked to vacate. ‘In a week’s time we will decide on the reopening depending on the situation,’ he added.

One of the students was involved in a fatal road accident Sunday, while the others who had been protesting the first incident were killed Monday after falling into a canal while fleeing police action, the authorities said.

The Cuddalore district administration has ordered a probe by S. Natarajan, additional district magistrate and district revenue officer, into the violence and the death of students. The report is expected in four weeks, a Cuddalore district official told IANS over phone.

With 27,000 students studying on campus, Annamalai University is one of Asia’s largest residential universities. It has been tense since Sunday night after Gautam Kumar from Bihar died due to an road accident that evening.

‘The boy seemed to have been riding the bike at great speed and met with an accident and one of his limbs was severed. He was brought to the hospital in a serious condition that afternoon,’ Ramananthan said.

He was finally taken to the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research in Puducherry where he died in the evening.

The body was brought back to Annamalai Nagar in Chidambaram and a group of students from northern India wanted to meet the vice chancellor in connection with Gautam Kumar’s death.

‘At around 12.30 midnight (Sunday/Monday) I was told by the security at my house gate that some students wanted to meet me. I came out and told the students that the matter would be discussed in the morning,’ Ramanathan said.

Around 400 students, all from northern India, gathered outside the university’s administrative building and went on the rampage. They went to the hospital and damaged the outpatient department and then started towards the emergency ward, said Ramanathan.

‘The security person informed the police patrol. A small police party and the university’s security started chasing the students. Running in all directions, some students jumped into the canal to escape,’ he said.

A police official told IANS from Chidambaram over phone: ‘There was no formal baton charge. Police chased away the rampaging students and they ran in all directions and some jumped into the canal.’

On Monday, the body of Sumit Kumar of Jharkhand was recovered from the canal and on Tuesday when students complained about their missing friends, police with the help of fire service personnel combed the canal and recovered the bodies of Mohammed Sarfaraz Rab and Ashish Ranjan Kumar, both from Bihar.

With four bodies recovered, tension gripped the Annamalai University campus and the authorities decided to close down all colleges barring the medical and dental colleges for an indefinite period.

‘Around 8,500 students staying in the hostels have been asked to vacate. We have arranged buses to transport them and also sought the Southern Railway’s assistance to attach additional bogies in all trains passing through Chidambaram,’ Ramanathan said.

The university has 17 hostels and nearly 60 percent students stay there. Out of the 27,000 students, nearly 50 percent study engineering.

Sumit Kumar’s body will be flown to Kolkata and the others will be taken to Delhi from where they will be taken to their respective places.

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