Friday, October 19, 2007

[Indiatimes] Ragging – far from fun

Ragging – an informal way for junior and senior students to get acquainted with each other or a means of deriving sadistic pleasure and a show of power? Severe ragging is very much a violation of human rights writes Aparajita Jamwal

How is severe ragging any different from other human rights violations like racism, caste discrimination, dowry, policebrutality, rape or slavery? All of the above are considered criminal offences, have judicial legislation and laws against them, and are considered morally wrong. However, there are many people who still think of ragging as harmless fun.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of ragging is -“to make fun of loudly and boisterously or rebuke severely,” while bullying is described as“deliberately intimidating or persecuting those who are weaker.” The lines between the two blur when you consider the kind of criminal offences committed under the pretext of ragging. Some of the harsher ragging offences include forcing fellow students to strip publicly, touch their genitals, sing abusive songs, masturbate publicly or eat faeces.

Psyche of Victim and Oppressor

“The proof of dominance for the senior is when the fresher breaks down. Therefore ragging has to hurt.‘The fresher has to be stretched like a rubber band until he snaps,’ and that is the point of the exercise according to one student,” writes Dr. Shobna Sonpar, student counsellor at Delhi University, in her essay on the incidence of ragging.

The Supreme Court recognizes that,“The cause of indulging in ragging is deriving a sadistic pleasure or showing off power, authority or superiority by the seniors over their juniors or freshers.”

Junior students who are sometimes helpless bystanders or participants often get caught in the ragging circus because they feel they have no options, that the senior students will make life even more difficult if they do not comply, or that ragging is a necessary if annoying part of college life.

It has been noted that professional colleges like engineering and medical institutions or schools and colleges with dormitories are more proneto ragging on campus.

Waving the Red Flag

The argument in favour has long been that ragging is a‘fun’ way for junior and senior students to become acquainted with each other. Perhaps this opinion is a result of lacking induction programs in colleges.

In 2001, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement against ragging, a result of a public interest litigation filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission.

Since then, many anti-ragging organizations have surfaced, such as The Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE), founded in 2001. CURE believes that education and awareness, alternate means of interaction and strict implementation of deterring laws can combat ragging.

Definition by law

The Supreme Court of India, in its landmark judgement to‘curb the menace of ragging’ in 2001, defined it as:“Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act…..or asking the students to do any act or perform something which (the)..student will not do in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche…..”

Does your college follow SC directives?

The Supreme Court also called for a number of measures. It remains to be seen the extent to which educational institutions follow these, and if they have had any effect in reducing the incidence of ragging.

  1. All educational institutions are supposed to have an anti-ragging cell, body or faculty assigned.
  2. Admission forms are supposed to have a section that mentions that ragging is a punishable offence, with signatures required from students as well as parents.
  3. Failure to curb ragging and spread awareness about its dehumanizing effect is considered an act of negligence on the part of the institution, the principal, hostel wardens and the faculty.
  4. Hostels and dorms are to be carefully guarded

Why are we still ragging?

In a country which professes to value respect for elders, teachers and the act of learning, it is surprising how ragging continues to be flaunted as part of the educational system.

The Supreme Court order also mentions that colleges guilty of allowing or ignoring ragging offences will be disaffiliated from universities and funding to such colleges may also be cut.

Scholarships of students guilty of ragging may be withheld, they may be debarred, suspended or expelled. For someone with a lot of money, power or political connections, is this enough of a deterrent?

In a press release in September 2007, CURE announced–
“CURE research has revealed52 cases of ragging incidentsreported in the online editions of national English media since May 21, 2007 till date…. Preliminary analysis of the cases reveal6 suicides, another 3 attempted suicides, 17cases of reported physical abuse, and several other cases involving sexual, verbal and drug

Ragging will persist as long as students, parents, educational institutions and the general public tolerate it. So the important question is this: What are you going to do about it?

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