Ragging is a form of abuse of newcomers to educational institutions, wherein some senior students force the unorganized newcomers to undergo several forms of mental, physical and sexual torture. The juniors are usually too frightened to resist this organized group of tormentors. The torture of innocent students often runs for months and involves the same batch of students being physically and mentally abused by the same and/or different group of seniors (including those from the opposite sex) over and over again. Ragging can be thought of in terms of verbal, physical and sexual aggression. A single act may be a combination of more than one of these. Bullying is not only restricted to academic institutions. Workplace bullying is also gaining attention.
RAGGING: ITS NATURE AND DEFINITIONS :
Ragging is a traditional and systematic human right abuse in the field of education and it is mostly found in universities or institutions. Apart from ragging, hazing, fagging, bullying, pledging and horse-playing are different terms used in different parts of the world but each signifying the same old practice of welcoming the fresher in a barbaric manner . Ragging is practiced all over the world, with different nomenclature; bapteme in French; doop in Dutch and mopokaste in Finnish. Accordingly, the term ‘ragging’ can be applied to any unruly behavior that involves mocking or treating any student offensively so as to cause nuisance, frustration or feelings of fear so as to adversely affect his or her state of mind. The freshers are traumatized both physically and mentally deriving sadistic a pleasure by the seniors amounting to gross violation of basic human rights. Number of students every year are being forced to go through this experience. Ragging is associated with physical, behavioural, emotional and social problems among victims. Various incidents of suicides, violence, physical injuries, sexual abuses and psychological disorders, resulting because of ragging are always reported.
So many definitions are given by different authorities regarding ragging; Supreme Court of India has given a comprehensive definition of ragging; it is any disorderly conduct, whether by words spoken or written, or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any student, including in rowdy or undisciplined activities which causes or are likely to cause annoyance, hardship, or psychological harm or to raise fear to junior student and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the psyche of a fresher of a junior student; ragging is a form of abuse of newcomers to educational institutions, wherein some senior of in terms of verbal, physical and sexual aggression.
Ragging is any act, conduct or practice by which dominant power of senior students, former students or outsiders, is brought to bear on students freshly enrolled or students who are in any way considered junior by other students and includes individual or collective acts or practices.
- involve physical or psychological assault or threat or use of force or wrongful confinement or restraint;
- violate the status, dignity and honour of such students; or
- expose students to ridicule and contempt and affect their self-esteem; or
- entail verbal abuse and aggression, indecent gesture and obscene behaviour.
Ragging is an age old practice in most professional institutions, where in-coming junior students are subjected to a certain amount of ‘good natured’ teasing by seniors. This is intended to break the ice and also allows juniors to get to know seniors. This act is not limited to schools, colleges, universities and hostels, but it has penetrated in every field in the society. A noticeable increase has been observed in ragging all over the world and especially in Southern part of Asia which includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Ragging has become a fashion or one can say a routine in institutions especially after the establishment of residential campuses known as hostels, where seniors involved finds a sense of pride and satisfaction in it.
However, in recent years, ragging has changed from normal human methods to cruel, brutal and inhuman methods which is mainly due to lack of supervision and absence of adequate guidance. This act of annoying, teasing and torturing a person mentally and physically at times goes out of control and results into severe psychological harm. There are cases where such treatment has led to serious physical injuries and sometimes even leads to a student’s death in the form of suicide. This will not only cause humiliation or harassment but will also have far reaching negative effects in an individual’s self -esteem, self-confidence and personality.
Accordingly, ragging is the biggest fear of any student entering college, especially those moving away from home to live in hostels. Scholars suggest that ragging is a criminal problem which has psychological roots and is a social ignorance.
History Of Ragging :
Ragging has been existence from since the Anno Domini era (A.D.). At that time, it was not brutal, rather it existed in its mild form as a sort of tradition during the 8th century A.D. Olympics in Greece, later the armed forces of several countries started practicing this ritual. From the army training institutions, the practice of ragging came into the fold of engineering, medical and other residential institutions. During the 18th century several students’ organizations were formed in the Europe and the United State. Accordingly, it was a part of the army and English public school tradition. They started practicing ragging on the new entrants in their community in a mild form. However, ragging became a major problem in the west after World War I. During the World War ragging underwent massive transformations as new techniques were introduced. These were introduced by students who returned from war and re-joined college. These techniques were actually severe forms of ragging which was practiced in army camps.
By the 18th century, master’s degree students needed to obtain a document that affirmed they had gone through the equivalent of middle ages hell night. Veteran students’ extorted money from fresher ill-treated them physically and forced them to dress in old garbs. One such French custom that immigrated to American universities was the cap or beanie that American fresher and many Greek pledges routinely wore for a term of a year. The custom still exists on a voluntary basis at a few American colleges such as Phillips University in Edin, Oklahoma. The system of penalize, disappeared from the continent, but not before many young men was humiliated, injured and killed. Early Egyptians, Romans and Greeks knew ragging. Racking was also in practice parallel to ragging with a special instrument of torture known as ‘rack’. But later, it got mixed up into ragging.
In the Netherlands in 1962 there was uproar because freshers were given treatment, a reference to the dreaded World War II concentration camps. Accordingly at one time a fresher suffered a brain injury when a senior student tried to knock a ball off his head with a hockey stick. In another custom, more than 200 young men were packed naked or half naked into a small room. The seniors then performed various kinds of barbarities on them. France has also had its problems controlling young men. The French term ‘brim a de’ includes hazing, ragging, silly and dangerous jokes and forced drinking. During 1920s in France, a national campaign raged against brim a des. The minister of public instruction forbade them in all French schools, and the minister of war ordered an end to such practices. According to a 1928 notice in the New York Times, brim a des had too often gone beyond the limits of fun and especially win anxious boys, who often voiced persecution and cruelty.
In the military schools, practical jokes had been pushed much further. The ministers of instruction and war emphasized that new boys must be welcomed cordially, fairly and kindly. Brim a des have also been a problem in Canada, perhaps because that country has imported such customs from the British, French and American Greeks. Hazing activities flourished on the Canadian border. Many incidents reported in Canada during orientation week, the conventional method for introducing new students to college life.
- RAGGING: AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON –
Ragging or bullying is not limited to a particular country or continent; rather it has been an international phenomenon. Ragging has been highlighted in western literature also (e.g.: in Britain, Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Boy by Roald Dahl and C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair). In a comparative, cross-sectional, multilevel study in 35 countries in Europe and North America for the period 2001-2002, it was observed that adolescents from families of low affluence reported higher prevalence of being victims of bullying. Adolescents that attend schools and live in countries where socio-economic differences are larger are at higher risk of being bullied. Bullying is a substantial problem affecting Canadian children also.
In a survey on final year medical students in 6 medical colleges of Pakistan, 52% of respondents reported that they had faced bullying or harassment during their medical education. The overwhelming form of bullying had been verbal abuse (57%), while consultants were the most frequent (46%) perpetrators. A report in 2007 by the Indian antiragging group Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE) analysed 64 ragging complaints and found that over 60% of these were related to physical ragging and 20% were sexual in nature. These facts and figures are nothing but the reflection of a large picture wherein the downtrodden people are always oppressed by the mighty ones and academic institutions are not an exception to this rule. Results of a prospective study of Korean adolescents showed that bullying independently increased suicide risks.
Based on an analysis of a national representative sample comprising of middle school and high school students in United States (US), it was found that 39% of the students were involved in bullying others and/or were victims of bullies at least three times in the preceding 12 months. Bullies, victims and both are at a significantly higher risk of suffering from self-inflicted, accidental and perpetrated injuries; abusing over-the-counter medications; indulging in hurting animals and people on purpose, using a weapon that could seriously hurt someone and of being frequently absent from school, as compared with their peers that are not involved in bullying or have rarely participated in it.
The ill effects of bullying are not only restricted to the victim alone. The catastrophe of a victim of ragging seems to be limited to that individual and his family; but if we look deep into the skin, then we come across the vast ill effects on the conscience of masses. What about other students that were the batch mates of Aman Kachroo in India? After the Aman Kachroo episode, the parents who had sent their wards to a professional college for achieving their desired goals are breathing under constant threat regarding the safety of their kids. And this fear is certainly going to hamper the future prospects of the coming generation, the future of the country.
- Ragging In India –
Initially the ragging started in British era, in English colleges and universities but slowly it spread and corrupted almost entire Indian educational institutions. The excuse was to teach the social hierarchy in early career, and also learn other important values in life as if they were mature enough know anything about values and hierarchy. Many colleges such as AIIMS, Christian Medical College and IIT Delhi and National college of engineering, Tirunelveli has an unpleasant history of ragging, with many of the alumni regarding the ragging period as unbearable and traumatic.
Practice of familiarizing beginners with their seniors has now turned into a potent tool for ill-treating and punishing poor students if they fail to obey their seniors.
Under the pretext of fun, a poor student is often assaulted, sometimes even stripped and intimidated by his seniors and this ritualized torture leaves an indelible impression on his mind. The chilling incident continues to haunt him throughout his life, and he unknowingly develops various psychological disorders. After experiencing the evil of ragging, a student develops a feeling of revenge for his ‘unjustified harassment’ and derives pleasure in ragging his juniors on his turn. So the trend goes on and students continue to suffer.
Those who surrender before their seniors are set free from the torment after going through a series of inhuman acts, but those who refuse to follow their diktats are subjected to barbaric and brutal treatment and are forced to urinate on high voltage heaters, take part in naked parades, shave off their moustaches and beards, and stand upside down on their heads etc.
The situation sometimes turns so bad that it compels the ragging victim to commit suicide. A section of students feel that light ragging should be allowed in educational institutions, while some are totally opposed to the idea and demand stricter punishment for those involved in it.
A high-level committee in 2009, which probed the death of Aman Kachroo, revealed that alcohol was the main reason leading to serious form of ragging and violence in the campus.
The custom of canning (Ragging) is indeed poorly-thought out. A report from 2007 highlights 42 instances of physical injury, and reports on ten deaths purportedly the result of ragging: Ragging has reportedly caused at least 30–31 deaths in the last 7 years. In the 2007 session, approximately 7 ragging deaths have been reported. In addition, a number of freshmen were severely traumatised to the extent that they were admitted to mental institutions. Ragging in India commonly involves serious abuses and clear violations of human rights. Often media reports and others unearth that it goes on, in many institutions, in the infamous Abu Ghraib style and on innocent victims.
In many colleges, ragging has been strictly banned and is proving effective . However, this ban has not been the case elsewhere, as seen by the number of ragging cases still reported by the media. Ragging involves gross violations of basic human rights. The seniors are known to torture juniors and by this those seniors get some kind of sadistic pleasures.
Though ragging has ruined the lives of many, resistance against it has grown up only recently. Several Indian states have made legislatures banning ragging, and the Supreme Court of India has taken a strong stand to curb ragging. Ragging has been declared a criminal offence.
FORMS OF RAGGING :
There are some of the existing forms of the ragging observed in the universities and other institutions and they are as follows:
The verbal torture: Verbal torture involves including in loose talks. The fresher men may be asked to sing the lyrics of any vulgar song or use abusive language while talking to the seniors.
Dress code ragging: The fresher men asked to dress in a specific dress code for a particular period to time. The dress code ragging may make the fresher men fell awkward and uncomfortable as it often brings them unnecessary attention from everybody.
Formal Introduction: This involves asking the fresh men to introduce themselves in different styles.
Sexual Abuse: This is severest form of ragging that takes place in universities. The seniors are mainly interested in juicy details such as the anatomical description of one’s body parts, his or her sexual interests, etc. In many cases, the fresh men have been asked to strip before the seniors.
Playing the fool: The fresher men may be asked to enact scenes from a particular movie or mimic a particular film state. In many cases, the seniors may also ask the fresher men to do silly things.
Hostel Ragging: Outstation students who stay in the hostel are most vulnerable to ragging. They may be asked to do all odd acts from cleaning the room of seniors to washing their clothes, from fetching them water or milk to completing their assignments.
Drug Abuse: This can be the worst form of ragging wherein the fresher men are forced to try drugs thereby driving them into addiction etc.
REASONS BEHIND RAGGING :
According to the Scholars, it is observed that the main causes for prevalence of ragging are:
- Importance the seniors get in the initial stages of admission by helping and guiding the new comers for various things in the absence of or ineffectiveness of institutional mechanism (ragging is justified by these students on the ground that ragging is the only way by which the new students can be taught about the traditions of the institution).
- Eagerness of seniors to show off their power, authority and superiority and influence over there junior students.
- Being a means of retaliation (seniors were ragged, so they also do the same thing to their juniors).
- Introduction of juniors.
- Use of alcohol in hostels.
- Satisfaction of sadistic pleasures.
- Making a ‘fashion statement’ (many senior students live under the misconception that ragging makes a style statement and will put them in the ‘influential crowd’ of their university).
- Lack of supervision and lack of implementation of serious anti-ragging measures by college authorities.
- Vacant or no posts of wardens in the hostels. Many wardens are not actually staying in the hostel.
- Ragging is not considered a social evil.
Measures Taken To Prevent Ragging :
Ragging has caught the attention of legislators, law enforcers, Courts and other sections of the society in the past decade due to the sharp increase in the number of incidents of ragging. Consequently, various committees had been established, recommendations formulated, regulations passed, guidelines directed and state laws have been enforced to curb the menace of ragging . Some of the efforts in this direction are as follows :
- Anti-Ragging Laws –
Ragging as we all know, is social interaction between seniors and juniors in schools and colleges. An interaction which can take very brutal, inhuman and anti-social form at times. Even some of the highly reputed colleges and institutions have a terrible history of ragging. Looking at all this, Anti-Ragging Laws are now very much necessary.
Some states in India have their own legislations on ragging. Some states which do not have their own legislation on ragging and therefore the ragging laws in these states are in accordance with the central legislations on ragging.
- Central Legislations –
The central legislations which check the practice of ragging in India are :
- Indian Penal Code
- UGC Regulations On Curbing The Menace Of Ragging In Higher Educational Institutions, 2009
- Other institute specific regualtions
- Indian Penal Code :
There are provisions in the IPC which can be used by a student to register an FIR in the nearest Police Station. These provisions are:
294 – Obscene acts and songs
323 – punishment for voluntarily causing hurt
324 – voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means
325 – punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt
326 – voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon
339 – Wrongful Restraint
340 – Wrongful Confinement
341 – Punishment for Wrongful Restraint
342 – Punishment for Wrongful Confinement
506 – Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder
- UGC Regulations On Curbing The Menace Of Ragging In Higher Educational Institutions, 2009 :
These regulations were passed by the University Grants Commission in the year 2009 to curb the menace of ragging in the Universities in India.
Regulation 6 talks about the measures for prevention of ragging at the institution level. It lays down the steps an institution has to follow during the admission and registration process. A student during the admission process has to file an affidavit along with his parents/guardian’s signature, stating that he will not be ragging other students directly or indirectly. Also, the institution has to publish the names and contact numbers of Anti-ragging committee of the university.
Every fresh student admitted to the institution shall be given a printed leaflet detailing to whom he/she has to turn to for help and guidance for various purposes including addresses and telephone numbers, so as to enable the student to contact the concerned person at any time.
Regulation 6.3 says that every institution shall constitute a committee to be known as the Anti-Ragging Committee to be nominated and headed by the Head of the institution, and consisting of representatives of civil and police administration, local media, Non-Government Organizations involved in youth activities, representatives of faculty members, representatives of parents, representatives of students belonging to the fresher’s category as well as senior students, non-teaching staff; and shall have a diverse mix of membership in terms of levels as well as gender. It shall be the duty of the Anti-Ragging Committee to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Regulations as well as the provisions of any law for the time being in force concerning ragging ; and also to monitor and oversee the performance of the Anti-Ragging Squad. It shall be the duty of the Anti-Ragging Squad to make surprise raids on hostels, and other places vulnerable to incidents of, and having the potential of, ragging.
Regulation 7 lays down that on receipt of any information concerning any reported incident of ragging, the Head of institution shall immediately determine if a case under the penal laws is made out and if so, either on his own or through a member of the Anti-Ragging Committee, proceed to file a First Information Report ( FIR), within twenty four hours of receipt of such information.
Regulation 9 lays down that The Anti-Ragging Committee of the institution shall take an appropriate decision, in regard to punishment or otherwise, depending on the facts of each incident of ragging and nature and gravity of the incident of ragging established in the recommendations of the Anti-Ragging Squad.
- Others :
Apart from the IPC and the UGC Regulations, there are other government bodies who have their own laws on ragging in their respective acts. For example the All India Council For Technical Education [AICTE] and the Medical Council of India have made their own regulations under their respective acts.
The AICTE has created “All India Council for Technical Education (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Technical Institutions, Universities including Deemed to be Universities imparting technical education) Regulations 2009” under Section 23 and Section 10 of the AICTE Act, 1987.
Similarly, the Medical Council of India has made “Medical Council of India (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges/Institutions) Regulations, 2009” under Section 33 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
Ragging is a widespread multidimensional problem covering various legal, educational, social, psychological and behavioral aspects. Although the Centre and the States have shown deep concern to eradicate the menace of ragging through implementation of various legislations, guidelines and directions but, still there is no central legislation so far in this regard. It is often argued that measures to eliminate ragging should go beyond law, but it is equally reasonable to believe and argue that through the intervention of law, ragging can be effectively curbed and uprooted, as has been the case in countries like Canada and Japan.
Moreover, relevant data on ragging is not at all available. Colleges and universities are reluctant to share their data with our research work, if at all they do have any. This creates a big hurdle for the researchers, field workers and analysts to analyze the problem for finding out some „cause and effect relationship‟ which would also indicate the best possible solutions for necessary corrective and preventive measures.
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