Saturday, May 19, 2007

[ToI] COUNTER VIEW: Ragging essential part of college life

19 May, 2007 l 0025 hrs ISTlYamini Lohia

The Supreme Court's new, harsher directives on dealing with ragging may be seen as a welcome move by some, but in reality, the measures are far too draconian. Most measures are aimed at making educational institutions directly responsible for taking action against the accused.

One of them is to make it mandatory for an institution to file an FIR whenever they are informed of an incident of ragging. The justification provided for such a measure is that it would prevent universities and colleges from sweeping particularly awful incidents of ragging under the carpet, in order to protect their reputations. However, this is incredibly dangerous, as the law can be misused.

It is not too difficult to imagine an altercation between a fresher and a senior student over some matter or other. Under the new laws, if the fresher takes offence he can report the senior student for ragging, and the burden of proof would then be on the accused. Personal vendettas could now be played out in court. And false accusation could lead to a permanent loss of reputation.

Far more dangerous, it could destroy the social fabric of institutions. A recent example is the Duke University lacrosse team case in the United States. The three lacrosse team students who were accused of sexual assault and rape were ultimately proved innocent, but the case has ripped the university apart, and created fault lines between male and female students.

Ragging has been a proud tradition in our colleges. It helps students get over the awkwardness of starting a new chapter in their lives, helps them bond, either with their seniors or in shared misery with their classmates.

Students are forced to come out of their comfort zones, to do things that might embarrass them, but that ultimately make them stronger. New students look forward to ritualistic hazing — for them, it is an indispensable part of college life.

It is a shame that the apex court has turned ragging into a dirty word.

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