The calculus of hope, fear and anxiety goes on in the fresher's mind on the first day of college. Anxious to explore the new-found freedom of college life, every student hopes to be treated with dignity and tries to counter his fears about being rebuked, snubbed and ragged by seniors.
Ragging hurts. Ragging violates the student's fundamental human rights and dignity. Ragging even kills. There are many instances of suicides and physical disability caused by ragging. Imagine the plight of parents and relatives who lose their loved ones just for, as some would call, fun and initiation-rite practice in college and hostels.
The understanding of ragging is that there is a group of seniors who initiate juniors to mainstream campus culture, helping them face difficult times in the future. However, with a little incisive probe, it becomes clear that ragging has a deeper meaning with its roots deeply embedded in the socio-cultural milieu. It is the culture of one-upmanship, belittling others and deriving pleasure in subordinating through threat of violence, generally by blustering ruffians, that is quite prevalent in our society. Students are very much an intrinsic part of this culture. Therefore, ragging and its other forms such as bullying, teasing, hazing, hectoring and so on, becomes a means to forcefully exploit juniors. When it is done at a secluded place, generally it takes the shape of physical abuse, sexual abuse, stripping, homosexual assaults, forcing obscene and lewd acts, gestures, causing bodily harm with a deviant and criminal mindset.
Colleges are part of larger civil society. The power-relations that work in society also work in educational institutions. It is through ragging that these power-relations of those who rag and the ragged get reproduced. Raggers try to marginalise juniors and others by seeking compliance and obedience to establish complete hegemony.
To curb the ragging menace in educational institutions, the Supreme Court of India constituted a committee headed by Dr R K Raghavan, that gave significant recommendations, later upheld by the apex court. The major recommendations of the committee, that may deter the raggers, are:
The burden of proof to lie on the perpetrator to prove that ragging did not take place;
College authorities to compulsorily file an FIR with the local police;
To decide all kinds of ragging cases in a time-bound manner;
The punishment to be meted out has to be exemplary and justifiably harsh;
To have anti-ragging committee, anti-ragging squad and a mentoring cell;
To take action within two hours of the complaint which could be oral/ written or even from a third party;
To create conditions for ragging-free campus.
Recently, the Supreme Court gave directions to be followed by all educational institutions. Some significant decisions are:
To have joint sensitisation and orientation programme of freshers and seniors;
To organise large scale cultural, sports and other activities;
To institute anti-ragging committee and anti-ragging squad;
To issue instructions to the employers/employees of the canteen/ mess to keep strict vigil and to report to the college authorities.
The freshers should not hesitate in reporting the case of ragging to the head of the institution. S/he may call or contact any member of the anti-ragging committee, meet the student counsellor, dial 100 (police control room) or even lodge an FIR at the nearest police station.
If the golden principle of human rights is followed by all of us, and that is, "do not that to others that thou wouldest not have done to thyself", then, for sure, ragging would be a thing of past.
(The author worked as consultant to the Raghavan Committee. The views are his. He is Head, Department of Political Science, Ramjas College, University of Delhi)