Curbing the ragging buisness

Lata Jain

This happened in a reputed college in Hyderabad. A scuffle broke out between South and North Indian students at the college, ironically named, which left 8 injured. It was told that 3rd semester students were ragging the first semester students badly, especially the ones who hailed from Bihar. They were allegedly locked up in a room and “treated like animals”. They decided subsequently to take matters into their own hands and a brawl ensued. The authorities made no F.I.R.s. When the media approached the university brushed aside the whole issue stating it was a minor scuffle over meals.

lata jain

Lata Jain

Every year, students join professional colleges. Classes start with the excitement and trepidation that accompany a new venture, particularly one that will shape their lives. However, very often, the initial euphoria of getting admission into a coveted course gives way to feelings of subjugation and possible humiliation and fear. The new students fear not the difficult course, nor the exams nor even the strictest of teachers. They fear harassment by a group of people who are just one to four years older than them-their seniors in college. At a time when students feel most vulnerable, having left a protected school environment and, often, their parents and homes, this can be a harrowing experience.

Ragging in India is a damaging form of interaction of the seniors in college or school with the juniors, newcomers or first years. It involves insults (simple or suggestive sexual, sarcastic and even physical), running errands for seniors, and many other complex activities. Highly reputed Indian colleges have a history of ragging. It has become increasingly unpopular due to several complaints of serious injury to the victims and strict laws regarding ragging. Ragging is now defined as an act that violates or is perceived to violate an individual student’s dignity.

To the onlookers of some of the horrific consequences of ragging, what is startling is that lecturers and administrators turn a blind eye towards the issue. The response of the principal of colleges is typical. He said “She… has fared badly in the semester examination and was depressed. That could have prompted her to attempt suicide.”

It is also true that many in the profession are aware of ragging but call it a “student’s issue” which does not require intervention. It is viewed as akin to a street fight about which we are not concerned or can do nothing; in any case, a token suspension of the hostel warden or supervisor is not going to bring back lives or sanity lost.

There are far too many indications that violence and bigotry-racial, religious, caste or other-have been on the rise over the past two decades or so. Unless we take strong action against ragging and those who rag, we will be guilty of adding to the growing intolerance and brutality in society.

Singer Sona Mahapatra says “I was horribly ragged in my engineering college in Odisha. Ragging is deplorable, and must be banned. Be it physical, mental, minor or major, ragging is a very perverted show of power, control and humiliation, and not way of getting anyone to join a community and blend into it. There are more interesting ways of doing that.”

Sona Mohapatra later reveled at the Satyamev Jayate website that, “The core group who ragged me incessantly in that disgusting manner went on to pursue MBA or MCA .

First, there should be stronger deterrents to ragging in the form of rules and strict punishments (akin to those for cheating in exams) accompanied by more vigilant monitoring of places and situations (such as isolated hostels and private hostels) where students are at risk of being ragged. However, it is not enough to focus on punishments alone.

There must also be a positive approach, encouraging senior students to adopt more inclusive and civilized methods to show juniors “the ropes”. Senior students need to have other models of welcoming new students into their fold and guiding them. Colleges should be much more proactive.

Violent practices are learned, and passed on from one generation to the next. It is possible to bring a halt to this “tradition”. What we need is a model for terminating ragging, terminating the very idea of deriving pleasure from humiliating another human being.

Instead of relating in such adversarial and harmful ways to ones’ juniors, why don’t students’ unions set up orientation committees, to enable fresher’s new to the city and the campus to fit in with student life in a college or university? This will enable the union and senior students to play a positive role in the lives of their juniors. This is a policy that should be followed in hostels also.

Administrations, teachers and colleges often view ragging as a private and fun affair, at worst a rite of initiation that is a necessary evil. They need to recognize it as a form of bullying and get actively involved in stopping this violation of human rights.

Following Supreme Court orders a National Anti-Ragging Helpline was launched by the Indian Government. Many students even commit suicide due to ragging. It may even damage the mental ability of the students. some people believe that ragging should be banned but some feel that it is a good way of making fresh entrants feel at home in school or in college.

The DGP Telangana Anurag Sharma has taken an initiative to campaign against Ragging and with the help of NGOs and media has launched a massive campaign against Ragging and the consequences.

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