A 19-year-old nursing student from Kozhikode in Kerala is battling for life after senior students of her college in Karnataka forced her to drink a phenyl-based toilet cleaner, which burnt her food pipe and damaged the internal organs.
The incident happened two weeks ago as part of a brutal hazing tradition called “ragging” in the hostel of Al Qamar College of Nursing in Gulbarga.
The Dalit girl, who was subjected to systematic verbal and physical abuse by senior students, has been brought to her coastal hometown and admitted to the government medical college hospital there.
A doctor said she needed emergency surgery but it has to be postponed for six weeks since her internal organs were damaged. “It is too dangerous to conduct a surgery now.”
The girl’s parents alleged that Gulbarga police refused to take down their complaint against eight senior students, all of them from Kerala, who allegedly forced her to drink the toxic substance.
“We shifted her to Kerala last week. Besides police, the college management too tried to hush-up the case. Our first priority was to save her life … so we kept quiet,” a relative said. “We were warned against speaking to anyone about this.”
The girl told her parents that when she vomited and collapsed after drinking the liquid, the seniors took her to a private hospital in Gulbarga. But her condition deteriorated, forcing the college authorities to call her parents.
She joined the college four months ago with an educational loan as her poor family could not afford the expenses. Since nursing seats are limited in Kerala, many girls go to private institutes in neighbouring Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for nursing and midwifery diploma degrees.
Kerala SC/ST and culture minister AK Balan promised to take up the matter with the Karnataka government so that guilty could be punished. He said the government would pay the girl’s medical bills.
Mild ragging is common across college campuses in India, a British legacy brought from its elite public schools. But extreme harassment exists in equal parts too despite state governments enacting anti-ragging laws.
So far efforts to curb the menace, which has driven many freshers to suicide, have proven ineffective. A Supreme Court report says college authorities seldom report even extreme cases to police.