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April 5, 2009

The Horror of Ragging

Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee

Once the term ‘‘ragging’’ was unknown in colleges — that is, in our time. But now it has assumed a larger-than-life appearance in colleges all over the country. It also existed in other countries like UK, USA, France, Canada, Finland and in other places in different names. But it has been controlled by the governments of those countries by taking stringent measures against the menace. Those measures must have instilled some fear in the minds of the students regarding the probable consequences of their activities.

In India this problem has become so acute that the very word ‘‘ragging’’ brings nightmare to the minds of freshers. So many dreams of aspiring students and their parents have been ruthlessly killed by ragging. Every year it has been going on, yet the authorities concerned and the governments of various States seem to be strangely apathetic towards this dangerous practice which has brought havoc to certain families. Ragging is no longer a mild form of teasing or banter, instead it has become a weapon to torture the newcomers, who come to the institute to study for a bright future. They come with stars in their eyes, determined to fulfil their parents’ dreams. They are young and may be a little homesick. Naturally they want some consideration and care from the seniors to adjust to a new environment. But instead they find a living hell in place of the hostel, where they are tortured brutally by the seniors. They become frightened and some run away. The others who bravely decide to study face humiliation and physical torture, which may lead to mutilation, sexual abuse, unbearable mental and physical humiliation, and even death. The seniors become monsters for them, without any human feelings.

We have heard of ordinances being decreed to stop the evil practice of ragging. But it has not been able to stop the evil practice. Every year newspapers report about various incidents of ragging. Some incidents go unreported and we have no idea how many students have fled from colleges to save themselves from their seniors — or how many have died. Yet the authorities seem to be reluctant to take action against the offending students, whose malicious activities may have destroyed the future of many. The offenders remain unrepentant and unpunished.

But this time the killing of a student in Himachal Pradesh has sent shock waves across the country. The sad death of Aman Satya Kachroo is too shocking for words. The 19-year old Kachroo, who passed out of DPS International in Delhi and was a resident of Gurgaon, died on March 8 in a hospital due to severe injuries allegedly during ragging by four of his seniors. While two second-year students, Ajay Kumar Verma and Naveen Verma, have already been arrested, police is on the lookout for two absconding students, named in the case registered under Section 302 of IPC with Kangra Police Station, as was stated by the Superintendent of Police of Kangra district. They have also been booked under anti-ragging ordinance.

In Gurgaon, the shocked family of the student said that the boy was subjected to immense violence and demanded action against the medical college. In the meantime the college authorities suspended the hostel warden, its manager and two guards, even as classes were suspended on March 9 in the wake of Kachroo’s death. Now the classes have resumed again.

The anti-ragging ordinance in Himachal Pradesh imposes a total ban on ragging ‘‘within and outside" the premises of educational institutions and provides for severe punishment to offenders. It makes ragging a non-bailable offence, and with the permission of the court, a compoundable offence. It has been said that a convicted student will be expelled from the institution for three years, and faces imprisonment up to three years or a fine of Rs 50,000 or both. Called the Himachal Pradesh Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Ragging) Ordinance, 2009, it also lays down the procedure for handling complaints of ragging and punishment for officials violating it.

The Supreme Court had last year directed educational institutions to register cases against those indulging in ragging activities. But even that has not stopped students from torturing freshers in many institutions.

Ragging has ceased to be a tolerable humiliation of freshers. It has now assumed criminal proportions. In another ghastly incident, a girl student of a government agriculture college was forced to do a strip dance by senior girl students. Now the court has served contempt notices on the principals of the two colleges of the continued violation of the previous order that had placed the onus of filing the FIR on the campus authorities.

It is significant that for the first time the responsibility to check ragging has been shifted to the State governments as well. So long the States evaded the responsibility. But now they would have to take action against the evil practice of ragging. By the order the Supreme Court has placed the authorities of the colleges, the State governments and the students on notice. The court order has also been extended to the Medical Council of India.

One only hopes that the scourge of ragging would come to an end once and for all.

(The writer is a former HoD, Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati) THE SENTINEL

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