Replace Ragging With Welcome Party
Once again comes the sad season of ragging, hazing or whatever name you call it in different countries:
Andhra Pradesh: Seven engineering students have been arrested for murdering one of their junios and severely injuring his friend on suspected case of ragging.
Kalkata: A first year student of the Marine Engineering and Research Institute was allegedly slapped 40 times as part of ragging.
Uttar Pradesh: Four senior students of an Uttar Pradesh university have been booked for physically abusing their junior, forcing him to remove his clothes and consume liquor in a case of ragging.
Himanchal Pradesh: Four medical students accused of ragging a junior leading to his death were arrested and charged with culpable homicide as the Himachal Pradesh government ordered a magisterial probe into the shocking incident.
Guntur (AP): An agriculture engineering student was allegedly made to dance nude as part of ragging by her seniors following which the girl attempted to commit suicide.
In the U.S. hazing (ragging) has resulted in several deaths and serious injuries.
In Indonesia, 35 people died since 1993 as a result of ragging initiation rites in the Institute of Public Service (IPDN).
Hazing is considered a felony in several U.S. states, and anti-hazing legislation has been proposed in other states. There is anti-ragging legislation in several countries, e.g. in France (the French term is bizutage) imposing a punishment up to six months in prison or 7,500 euro. In the Philippines, ragging accompanied by any forms of temporary or permanent physical injuries (from light injuries to injuries resulting to death), sexual abuse (in any form) or any acts that lead to mental incapacity are punishable by law. Penalties vary depending on how serious the offense is. In India, ragging has been banned for the last few years . Recently, in a historical judgement, the Hon. Supreme Court of India directed the police to lodge criminal cases against those accused of ragging. State governments have also been ordered to deal with ragging strictly. But it is not enough that the law is after all catching up with ragging. Something else has to change: the mindset that considers ragging just part of college life. Ragging is not about harmless traditions or silly antics—ragging is about abuse of power and violation of human dignity. Ragging is simply a systemized form of abuse and exploitation. We are told that ragging can be fun. Yes, it can be — for the ragger. Just like Abu Ghraib was fun for the American soldiers in those pictures we saw. And we never saw pictures of similar abuse in India's college hostels, because no one took those pictures. Those who died or committed suicide are no longer there to tell their raggers how much fun ragging can be. We must fill that gap.
Ragging is a parent's nightmare and a nagging fear for the people who run colleges and universities. The system is carefully drilled into the fresher's mind. You will be told, ad nauseum, that 'ragging can be healthy within limits'. All such arguments in favour of ragging talk about the extent of ragging. The problem is not the extent but the idea of ragging: the idea that you must abuse and exploit just because you joined this college a year or two earlier. The problem is with even the mildest of ragging. Even the harshest ragging begins with mildly, and often the ragger loses self-control, and does things that he never thought he could do. A fresher is ragged not once, and not by a single senior: he is ragged again and again, by the same senior and by other seniors and by their friends from outside college. He is ragged day and night, and more in the night, throughout the night. Just when he thinks the worst is over, comes another ragger whose name he does not know. This goes on for months with no respite.
In order to make meaningful change, it is important to identify the key barriers to change and work on dismantling these. Common barriers to eliminating ragging include:
* Denial of the problem
* Dismissing ragging as harmless
* Insufficient support for victims of ragging
Cultural norms that promote acceptance of ragging as “normal”
In the context of eliminating the above barriers, especially the last one, here ia a heartening news from Chandigarh:
Chandigarh: The PUSU president Simranjit Singh Dhillon organised a peace rally at Panjab University from Gandhi Bhawan to Students’ Centre with a pledge to end a ragging menace in educational institutes of Chandigarh. According to information, the students’ have taken an oath to end ragging in each and every institute of Chandigarh.
If ragging has to go, it has to be replaced with a new system that brings freshers into the college mainstream. The system of responsible seniors being appointed student 'guides' or 'counsellors' for freshers is the only one that has worked so far. It is successfully followed by western universities, and in India, by IIT Kanpur. The best would be to replace ragging with welcome parties by the seniors, just as the the juniors organize farewell functions for the seniors at the end of their final year of studies.