Saturday, May 19, 2007

[ToI] VIEW: Only way to protect vulnerable students

19 May, 2007 l 0027 hrs IST

When fun and games cross the threshold of decency - when friendly persuasion turns to violent force - ragging causes freshers extreme humiliation and suffering, both mental and physical. Traumatised and scarred, some victims of ragging have ended their lives. Others simply walk away to seek alternative course options in other, safer, universities even if it means giving up a hard-earned seat in a prestigious institution. That ragging helps freshers familiarise themselves with their seniors is a specious argument.

Far from making newcomers feel comfortable, ragging simply emboldens seniors to indulge in heightened forms of sadism. The Supreme Court's warning on ragging to senior students and institutions and its recommendation to mete harsh and exemplary punishment to detractors has come not a day too soon. In a climate of fear where both student-victims and heads of institutions hesitate to take action against offenders - anticipating political backlash - the apex court has come forward to rein in this obnoxious practice.

The tradition of ragging could be traced to the army, where relationships are grounded in hierarchy and so seniors must be obeyed, at all cost. An institution of learning, on the other hand, is supposed to be founded on openness. There is no place here for the kind of coercion characteristic of ragging. Worse, ragging by seniors is now only a euphemism for abuse based on caste, race, ethnicity, religion, class and political leanings. Ragging today is an expression of all kinds of prejudice.

The SC's recommendation that the institution of learning - where offensive ragging has taken place - must file an FIR in the event of a complaint, is an important step in recognising the problem and opening a way to resolve it.

Accountability of the perpetrator and the institution to maintain discipline and order can only be possible if reporting and filing of complaints is made mandatory. Expulsion of student offenders and economic sanctions against institutions that refuse to take action - as per the SC's injunctions - should go a long way in curbing the heinous practice of indecent ragging.

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