On Thursday a fast-track court in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, began hearing the case of the ragging death of MBBS student Aman Kachroo.
Aman’s father Rajender Kachroo, 55, however, isn’t keeping track of the legal proceedings.
When Hindustan Times informed him of the hearing, Kachroo said he held no grudge against four senior students of Rajendra Prasad Medical College who allegedly beat up Aman on March 8, a day before he died of head injuries.
“They are victims of the system. I’d be happier if the principal was punished,” said the engineer, who has taken a year off work to sensitise university authorities on the menace of ragging.
Initiation rites in college are common throughout the world. In India, they take a violent face. According to Delhi-based non-profit organisation Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE), 12 students died due to ragging between July 2008 and July 2009. In the same period, 88 ragging incidents were reported.
In the corresponding period last year, 8 students died and 89 cases reported.
“The government doesn’t keep any official count,” says CURE’s Varun Agrawal, “the cases reported are less than 10 per cent of those that occur.”
Aman, 19 when he died, isn’t alone.
On October 9, Nayan Adak, a first-year student at the Calcutta Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology in West Bengal’s Howrah district, was found hanging from a rope. Last month, Nayan, 19, alleged his seniors told him to strip, dance and smoke, and, when he refused, slashed his hands with a blade.
Subal Adak, Nayan’s uncle, said: “His father sold land to raise Rs 60,000 for the course. Though people at home knew about the ragging, everyone wanted him to stay on as so much money had been spent.”
India has at least 20,000 colleges of higher education and more than 20 million students.
Coming to grips with his son’s death, Rajendra Kachroo wasn’t sure if he could take on the government. But his loss gave him strength.
“There was nothing to lose. I had to make the government listen.”
Within days of Aman’s death, his father wrote to 450 vice-chancellors and petitioned the Supreme Court to make anti-ragging measures stronger. In May, the court recommended stopping funds to universities with poor anti-ragging records, and forming ragging prevention squads.
Former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan, who heads a panel set up by the Union human resources ministry in November 2008 to tackle the menace, said anti-ragging measures had made only marginal headway.
“Some universities have been quick to take strong measures against aggressors. I expect everyone to fall in line in course of time,” Raghavan said.
In May, a Supreme Court bench directed educational institutions to take de-addiction measures for alcoholic students and provide them counselling.
In Andhra Pradesh, which is on top of the list of states with ragging incidents in the country, the police booked cases against Vasavi Engineering College after Hyderabad software student Devender Kumar committed suicide after he was allegedly ragged.
In West Bengal, which reported 10 ragging cases between July 2008 and June 2009, the authorities at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata expelled three students for asking first-year students to perform sexual acts.
“If such incidents get reported again, we will disaffiliate colleges,” said Shobbosachi Sengupta, vice-chancellor of West Bengal University of Technology, which affiliates all the private engineering colleges of the state.
Tanvir Aeijaz, head of the political science department at Delhi’s Ramjas College, says ragging is a power trip. “The seniors want to subjugate juniors to maintain the power structure,” said the professor.
At the college where Aman was killed, his father’s campaign is inspiring students not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
“His parents took his death as a challenge to fight the ragging menace,” said Abhinav Awasthi, a second-year student. “This has made a nation realise how violent our campuses are.”
Inputs from Gaurav Bisht in Dharamsala, Mou Chakraborty in Kolkata and Ashok Das in Hyderabad