(This is an old article published on 21 Apr 2009)
Ragging or Raging?
The debate about whether, “ragging” is good or bad, is once more in the air. The incident that brought the ugly face of “ragging” to light, occurred on 7 March but was reported in media only on Saturday 11 April, more than a month later: “A 19-year-old management student may have permanently lost his vision after his seniors beat him up in a Coimbatore college last month.
Akhil Dev alleges his senior students at the PSG College of Arts and Science punched him in the eyes and hit him on his head with a steel chair and a frying pan on March 7. Dev, a student of Business Management and Information Systems at the college, was allegedly assaulted after he refused to pay the senior students money for the second time after giving them Rs 3,000” (CNN-IBN).
On 30 March, Indian Express reported -“Nineteen-year-old Kachroo died on March 8 after being allegedly beaten up by four seniors at the Rajendra Prasad Medical College in Kangra.”
“Ragging” is a hot topic amongst youth. Freshers are anxious, and seniors wait to have fun. Most agree ragging could be fun if within limits. Yet we find a rising number of incidents showing a horrible side of ragging. The question arises, “where is the limit? Where do we draw the line?”
The Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (1), an NGO, defines ragging as: “an act of aggression committed by an individual or a group of individuals (say A) over another individual or a group of individuals (say B), where A by virtue of their being senior to B somehow get the authority and audacity to commit the act and B, by virtue of their being new to the institution are automatic victims.”
CURE divides ragging into verbal, physical and sexual. It observed that 62% reported cases were of physical ragging (mostly beating the fresher). Sexual ragging cases were a high 33%, and 13% cases not only comprised sexual abuse, but physical violence. Generally, sexual ragging comprised asking the fresher to strip, dance naked, imitate pornographic postures, and so on. In two cases, one at Santiniketan and another at Kottayam, freshers were actually raped by seniors on the name of ragging. Instances of verbal ragging being reported are low as they are milder.
Hostels – abode of hostility
CURE found that 11 deaths due to ragging were reported between 2005-2007. It observed: “Ragging has caused a total of 10 deaths in the last 2 years, 10 of which were that of young college-going students. Surprisingly, all these deaths are not those of freshers. C. Lalitha, the mother of Mukesh, ended her life due to the controversy surrounding the sexual abuse of her son during ragging (Andhra Pradesh, Sept 2006). Three of the ragging deaths were that of seniors: a first year student killed 2 seniors when he was being ragged (Vidyanagar, MP, Aug 2006); 1 senior ended his life when he was punished for ragging. The other 7 deaths were those of freshman, 6 who committed suicide due to ragging and one due to the result of brutal ragging (equivalent to murder).” A further 23 cases included “physical injury” and 12 included “mental injury”.
The CURE report made the important observation that the places where ‘real-ragging’ occurs are not college campuses, but hostels. A startling 84% cases of ragging happened in hostels (or out-of-campus housing), whereas only 16% happened on campus or other places off-campus. Out of 44 cases where place of ragging could be ascertained, 37 were in hostels and 7 on campus.
Thus we can conclude that on-campus ragging is rather harmless, aimed at developing a friendly atmosphere. But ragging takes the form of absolute violence in hostels, where freshers are subjected to physical, sexual and emotional harassment. Ragging needs to be handled delicately, or many innocents may face trouble – there must be a clear distinction between innocent fun and harassment.
R K Raghavan Committee
The Report of the R.K. Raghavan committee (2) goes further and defines ragging in more clear terms:
• Any act that prevents, disrupts or disturbs the regular academic activity of a student should be considered within the academics-related aspect of ragging
• Any act of financial extortion or forceful expenditure burden put on a junior student by senior students should be considered an aspect of ragging for economic dimensions
• Any act of physical abuse including all variants: sexual abuse, homosexual assaults, stripping, forcing obscene and lewd acts, gestures, causing bodily harm or any other danger to health or person can be put in the category of ragging with criminal dimensions
• Any act or abuse by spoken words, emails, snail-mails, public insults should be considered within the psychological aspects of ragging. This would include deriving perverted pleasure, vicarious or sadistic thrill from actively or passively participating in the discomfiture to others.
The Raghavan Committee made 50 recommendations to tackle the menace of ragging. The Supreme Court (3) in its order of May 2007 listed nine of these basic recommendations to be implemented without delay:
• Punishment to be meted out must be exemplary and justifiably harsh to act as a deterrent against recurrence of such incidents.
• In every single incident of ragging where the victim or his parent/guardian or Head of Institution is not satisfied with the institutional arrangement for action, a First Information Report must be filed without exception by the institutional authorities with local police authorities.
• Courts should make an effort to ensure that cases involving ragging are taken up on priority basis.
• The possibility of introducing in the educational curriculum a subject relating to ragging to be explored by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and respective State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT).
• In the prospectus to be issued for admission by educational institutions, it shall be clearly stipulated that in case the applicant for admission is found to have indulged in ragging in the past or if it is noticed later that he has indulged in ragging, admission may be refused or he shall be expelled from the educational institution.
• The Central and State Governments shall launch a programme giving wide publicity to the menace of ragging and the consequences which follow in case any student is detected to have been involved in ragging.
• It shall be the collective responsibility of the authorities and functionaries of the concerned institution and their role shall also be open to scrutiny.
• Anti-ragging committees and squads shall be forthwith formed by the institutions.
• The Committee constituted pursuant to the order of the Court shall continue to monitor the functioning of anti-ragging committees and squads formed.
These recommendations remain virtually unimplemented because the magnitude of the harassment due to ragging is largely unknown to the public. Many people live in denial about such harassment. Though most ragging is mild and harmless, the dark side of ragging as a social problem has been largely neglected.
Ragging is a psychological problem. It denotes the psychological phenomenon of some people deriving pleasure from harassing others for ‘fun’. Ragging has been associated with sadism. Seniors who are able to sexually or physically rag juniors see it as an act of courage. But ragging represents a deeper problem. It points to the degradation in ethics and values in society, especially among the youth. It raises the question, where is the future generation going? Do our youth know where to draw the line? Are we really educating them or simply imparting literacy? These questions must be answered.
1] Ragging in India, A Summary Report on Incidents, Social Perceptions and Psychological Perspectives, CURE REPORT: CR2007_05-16, May 16, 2007
2] The Menace of Ragging in Education Institutions and Measures to Curd it, Report of the Committee constituted by the Honorable Supreme Court of India In SLP No. 24295 of 2006.
3] Supreme Court of India’s interim order on ragging based on R.K. Raghavan Committee dated 16/05/2007.