Certain South Asian movies exhibit scenes of senior students ragging the new-comers in various manners; some verbally abusive, some turning out physically harassing.
The effect of ragging and its practice is not limited to movies alone or only the South Asian countries like India, but many Sri Lankan universities provide statistics of brutal ragging scenarios that have ended up in leaving permanent mental and physical scars in the life of the victims and their families.
The purpose of this article is to create awareness among the fellow Sri Lankans and South Asians about the still existing practice of ragging, its effects, and consequences to the future of the individuals of multi-cultured societies and how steps could be taken to eradicate it in whole.
What is ragging?
Wikipedia defines ‘ragging’ as ‘the term used for the so-called “initiation ritual” practiced in higher education institutions in South Asian countries, including India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
What does ragging constitute?
According to the information provided by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, states that ragging constitutes the following acts;
- Any conduct by any student or students whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness a fresher or any other student.
- Indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities by any student or students which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship, physical or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in any fresher or any other student.
- Asking any student to do any act which such student will not in the ordinary course do and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame, or torment or embarrassment to adversely affect the physique or psyche of such fresher or any other student.
- Any act by a senior student that prevents, disrupts or disturbs the regular academic activity of any other student or a fresher.
- Exploiting the services of a fresher or any other student for completing the academic tasks assigned to an individual or a group of students.
- Any act of financial extortion or forceful expenditure burden put on a fresher or any other student by students
- Any act of physical abuse including all variants of it: sexual abuse, homosexual assaults, stripping, forcing obscene and lewd acts, gestures, causing bodily harm or any other danger to health or person;
- Any act or abuse by spoken words, emails, post, public insults which would also include deriving perverted pleasure, the vicarious or sadistic thrill from actively or passively participating in the discomfiture to fresher or any other student.
- Any act that affects the mental health and self-confidence of a fresher or any other student with or without an intent to derive a sadistic pleasure or showing off power, authority or superiority by a student over any fresher
Effects of ragging
- The victims of ragging suffer maximum in forms of depression, isolation, demoralization and many other forms of detrimental effects on the personality.
- In extreme cases, the victim can even commit suicide due to the mental pressures that develop over some time.
i.e. In 2014, the body of a student, D.K. Nishantha, was found hanging from a tree within the premises of the University of Peradeniya, in a shrubbery area located not far from the Marcus Fernando Boys’ Hostel. According to police reports, the young man had been a witness to the sexual assault of his friend which took place in 2010, perpetrated by several other students residing in the dorm. Police stated that D.K. Nishantha had not attended the university since the time of the alleged sex abuse case. The death has later ruled a suicide.
In a recent incident in 2019, On Sunday, March 31, Shanilka Dilshan Wijesinghe had put an end to the tortures he had faced from ragging at the Diyagama campus by taking his own life.
- If ragging is not terminated at any point, the entire learning atmosphere is vitiated.
- There will be a constant fear and tension in the mind of every second student that she/he might be the next victim of ragging.
i.e. The UGC has received 434 complaints regarding ragging from January 2017 to June 2018.
- The free and liberal atmosphere in learning tends to vanish in such colleges or institutes.
Historical Analysis of the incidents of Ragging
The practice of ragging had been brought into existence from the post World War II era. Wikipedia states that ‘Ragging is not an indigenous phenomenon, but a direct result of the British colonialism in Sri Lanka.’
The Soldiers returning from war had re-entered the college and brought with them the technique of ragging learned in the military camp. These techniques had been used to make individuals fail not only as an individual but succeed as a team. Eventually, when less military persons had entered the universities, ragging had lost its primary objective and become a violent and hazardous exercise.
These statistics from The Daily Mirror provide shreds of evidence to various ragging scenarios that have taken place in different universities of Sri Lanka in chronological order.
Reading and hearing stories from the victims of extreme ragging tortures would boil the blood and hurt the conscience of any humane individual. When such stories reach one, the initial question rising would be ‘Why are strict actions not taken against such barbaric behaviors?’
For the attention of such concerned individuals, Actions have been taken by the higher authorities of Sri Lanka in regards to this.
- In 1997, Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act, No. 20 of 1998 had been passed in the Sri Lankan parliament. As specified in the detailed note of the Act, it is identified as an Act to eliminate ragging and other forms of violent and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment from educational institutions. The Act specifies the relevant Higher Educational Institutions coming under the Act and that includes all the Higher Educational Institutions established under the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978.
- An online portal to report incidents related to ragging had been established in Sri Lanka.
- Ragging is now universally regarded as a systemized form of human rights abuse in educational institutions and is considered as a form of crime!
Though voices are raising against ragging, protests are held, twitter wars go on, the list of victims of ragging in Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries are lengthening.
How can we put an end to the concept of ragging?
According to the analysis of The Daily News, there are acceptable ways to put an end to the concept of ragging,
Providing primary anti-ragging lessons
The root of ragging in universities start from where the individuals gain their primary education. Though at a later stage, the university or the higher education institute become solely responsible for the barbaric acts of ragging, at an earlier stage, students must be taught basic human rights and responsibilities as fellow citizens and human beings towards each other. This kind of basic education must be followed up until Advanced levels and strict measures have to be taken to send students out of school during their finishing classes, as proper, humane individuals.
Pre-sessions and warnings
As the academic years at universities begin, the Head of the institution should clearly and specifically, give a strict warning that ragging in no manner will be acceptable in or out of the university premises. The message should also inform the students of the appropriate punishment which will not be revoked unless proved innocent.
Effective interactions between seniors and new-comers with an initial guide of the Head of the institution.
Fresher parties, social gathering under the supervision of the authorities, interactive games involving seniors and juniors, community work, short trips, games, and other such activities within the bounds of decent social acts could be initiated as alternatives to brutal interactions between the seniors and new-comers.
Universities should form anti-ragging squads whose members are students, faculty, staff, police, etc., can effectively discourage ragging. This should be started with the intention of working undercover or openly for the promotion of the anti-ragging message. This Squad should be given the power of conducting surprise raids on hostels and other possible spots. Maybe, an incentive scheme could be applied to them to make it persuadable.
Supervision of hostels and residential premises outside the campus
Wardens and associated members should keep a constant vigil on the activities of the residents of the hostels. Surprise checks should be conducted randomly, especially during the nights. Residential faculty and other staff can also be included in the supervision of the hostel environment. Hostels which are located outside the boundaries of the campus need constant vigilance. The private establishment providing residential facilities to hostellers should be registered with the local police authorities. Police and the institute authorities can put effective surveillance through routine check-ups and CCTV cameras installed at strategic points.
Above all, it is necessary for administrators, employees of universities, legal experts, media persons, parents, psychologists, political representatives, representatives of State Governments and local authorities, students, student organizations, statutory authorities, and social activists to come together collectively to put an end to ragging.
Victims of ragging who are traumatized must be given mental and physical support to come forward in voicing out the injustices done to them to prevent such injustices happening to the fellow students of anywhere.
“Ragging at its most harmless is embarrassing and silly, but at its worst, it attempts to prevent individual students from independent thinking, attempts, to eradicate freewill”
― Debalina Haldar, The Female Ward