Ragging is the practice of Mild or Extreme Bullying of ‘New Comers’ or ‘Fresher’s’ in a Higher Education Academic Environment by the Senior Students. According to SPACE (Society for People’s Action Change and Enforcement) – ‘Ragging is a systemized form of human rights abuse in educational institutions in South Asia’. It defines ragging by identifying the menace with 3 kinds of abuse: Verbal, Physical and Sexual. These abuses are often observed in the form of, mostly forceful or persuasive acts, like – dancing, singing, playing truth or dare, proposing a girl or a boy, performing explicit sexual acts and various other forms which often lead to dire consequences for the victim. Ragging is known with different names in different parts of the world - Hazing, Fagging, Pledging, Horse-Playing, Bullying etc. While it was practised all around the world but is now confined mainly to South-Asia. In rest of the world, it isn’t a menace, but ragging in colleges of India and Sri Lanka, is a rampant act, which still continues to be a ‘Nightmare’ for the Students and their parents. Ragging is more common and brutal in hostels as the environment is enclosed which makes ragging opportunities easy. Whether, a Boy or a Girl, there is hardly any difference, in the type and level of ragging existent in an hostel environment, apart. In an open campus, ragging is more likely to be non-existent, hidden or mild as the acts may become visible to the authorities. To add to their problems, they are threatened and observed by the seniors, if they dare to complain to the authorities. This may result in continuation of humiliations or tortures and ultimately leads to death of the victim. Once a mild form of entertainment and casual fun, ragging has become painful and troublesome for all the concerned. Whenever, ragging is mentioned, it is assumed that it is performed by boys on other boys and or other girls. However, ragging has reached another dimension with ragging of girls being conducted by girls themselves. Various such incidents have been reported in various regions of India. But another trend that seems to be picking up is that of girls ragging boys, which though is rare but still prevalent. The government has passed strict laws against ragging and the College authorities claim of having strictly banned ragging in campuses. They even offer assistance if any case happens. However, the Case-Scenario hasn’t changed much. This is evident from the statistics of CURE (Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education), there were 89 cases of Ragging during Academic Year 2007-08 in India. Amongst these were 11 cases which reported death of the victims. 21% of these cases involved Sexual form of Ragging and 43% were Physical in form. These rates have doubled over the years. As per CURE reports, there were 164 reported cases, 19 deaths and 4 attempted suicides across India between July 2009 and June 2010. The problem is the most prevalent in engineering, military and medical colleges. The Medical colleges are the worst affected in India. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal report the largest number of reported incidents of ragging. For newcomer’s it has all ready been a tough and long journey, before they have managed to reach the college, after completing school. Some have come facing economical crisis while others have had a hectic and tense process of admission, especially where entrance test is required. While they should be focussed on realising their dreams, enjoy the freedom and become responsible citizens, instead they face another entrance test, which is known as ‘Freshers Entrance Test’ a.k.a. Ragging. It’s syllabus, course, dates are not fixed and results are unpredictable. It’s faculty include the ‘Veterans’ a.k.a. the ‘Seniors’ who want to get friendly and become familiar with them. But they intentionally or unintentionally end up perpetuating fear and intimidation amongst the new batch. While there are exceptions but mostly negative impacts of ragging are ignored or are overlooked upon. However, over the years ‘Ragging’ has evolved into a form of psychopathic behaviour which can seriously affect the fabric of society at large.
History of Ragging
Ragging has been in existence since the Anno Domini (A.D.) era. 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 practising this ritual.
During the 18th century several students organizations were formed in the Europe and the US. They started practising 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 I ragging underwent a massive transformation as new techniques were introduced. These were introduce by students who returned from war and rejoined college. These techniques were actually severe form of ragging which was practised in army camps.
Soon it became a tool to take out revenge between the Blacks and Whites.
First ragging related death occurred in 1873 in Cornell University in the US. Gradually in the 20th century ragging related violence started to escalate in the west. The trend went in decline during the 70’s and 80’s as result of strict laws made by Universities and Colleges and through alternative methods of interaction.
In India, Ragging tagged along with the British Empire, where it was practised mainly in the Army and English public schools. It was in its mild form till the early 70’s. However, the 80’s witnessed a rise in the practice of this practice. It was media which played vital role in influencing ragging. From there onwards it acquired a brutal form. Then, during the 90’s private engineering colleges and medical colleges were established in large numbers. It was during this period that ragging started showing its ugly face with South India being the central point of these activities. To combat it, Tamil Nadu became the First State to introduce legislation against ragging during 1997. Ragging : Causative and Encouraging Factors
There are number of factors and its related encouraging factors which give birth to such ghastly acts. While in some institutes, there can be a single causative agent while in others multiple causative agents culminate in Ragging.
Inequality in Society – While inequality has always been a bane for the society, it’s effects are more prominent in certain environment, like educational institutes where candidates belonging to various social background come for academic pursuits. Such an environment fosters discrimination based on caste, region, language, class etc. This scenario is predominant in small cities and towns. Hatred or dislike towards a certain section of people leads to clashes wherein those at the higher levels of stature go ‘Scot Free’.
Human Tendency to Dominate – From time immemorial various leaders and kings have tried to dominate the world for example – Hitler. Such leaders have given an insight into the human psych, which has inclination towards domination. Youngsters want to have the ‘Power of Control’, to show their prowess and it is here that they overstep the line. Another example are Sports Competition, where players are pitted against each other to find who is the best. Though it is a mere sport, but underlining these activities is the human urge to show superiority. Displays of aggression and taunt are clearly visible when players are competing, especially in football.
Improper Regulations – One of the most important factor, which can be called the single major cause is the lack of effective regulations. Institutes failed to formulate proper guidelines as this situation was not a major one, before it started to show it’s ugly face. Ragging was prevalent but it’s regulation wasn’t. The situation wasn’t a peculiar one in the beginning and as such there were no guidelines in order to combat the upcoming evil. Even when the regulations were created or enforced, they were not adequate or lacked the expert input. The guidelines lacked the wide spectrum of the problem and there were various loopholes. Ineffective Measures – Wherever ragging occurs or has occurred proves that there was absence or lack of effective measures. There is a certain level of casualness or carelessness whilst dealing with such incidents. It shows the attitude of the authority as being irresponsible as they have not responded appropriately to deal with such incidents. Even when ragging has been declared as an offence, it continues to exist. Why?, Obviously all the existing measures have proved to be counter-productive.
Right to Rag – Seniors are of the opinion the ragging is their right. They consider it as a traditional practice. They believe that since they were ragged so they have the right to rag their juniors. In their minds, ragging must be endured by their fresher’s too. Students believe that it is the only way by which seniors and freshers can interact. Students are inculcated with the logic that seniors who rag them will help them later as they have been acquainted post-ragging.
Rules are meant to be Broken – Young minds tend to do what they like, irrespective of the consequences. This is because of the lack of experience and immaturity. ‘Rules are meant to be Broken’ adage is taken in a wrong notion. The young mind conceives that it is applicable in every field where as the adage is meant to inspire a person to indulge in productive work which is beyond the conventional wisdom. ‘Laws are meant to be broken’, this is no more applicable in the modern world, it was applicable when the law was a tool to exploit.
Notion of Acceptability – Ragging in educational institutions continues to exist and manifest because the students consider it as a socially acceptable ritual. They do not consider Ragging, a social evil rather they take it as a part of growing up and gaining experience. Ragging for them is a training ground for making them strong and bold. They consider ragging as beneficial as it prepares them for the upcoming challenges which lie beyond the premises of the educational institute, where circumstances are more tough. Juniors are also of the view that ‘Ragging is the only platform which will enable their interaction and develop friendship with seniors’. Therefore they find it justifiable and indulge in it themselves when they become seniors, thereby ensuring the legacy of ragging. The casual attitude of the public also strengthens this view.
Sexual Repression – India is a nation where sex is still a taboo, especially in rural areas. Majority of Indians are sexually inhibited and repressed. The fabric of the society is such that it doesn’t address such issues rather it tends to curb it. Religion and traditions force the youth into considering ‘Sex as a Sin’ which leads to sexual frustration and no outlet. Often abusive ragging is focused on the genital area and takes on sexual forms. This is an indicator that ragging is a manifestation of widespread sexual repression in our society.
Covering the act of Ragging – More often than not, Ragging is denied by institutes to cover up their reputation. Sometimes the guilty party belongs to an affluent family and they influence the authorities to cover up such an incident. Both the authority and the affluent one’s do not want unwanted attention from the media. There is also the possibility of hooliganism and strikes by the seniors which will cost the authorities dearly. Sympathy towards the senior owing to the severe punishment leads to compromise and suppression of the case.
Ragging is an Initiation - Majority of the seniors are of the view that ‘Ragging is an Ice-breaker for the Fresher’s’. Ragging is means to introduce and familiarise the new comers with seniors. In their opinion, ragging is an act of ‘Harmless Fun’ achieved through various tasks given to the new comers. In their minds it is a mutual beneficial fun. Some mindsets consider it an initiation which will develop unity and Oneness of all those who have undergone the procedure. However, majority of the individuals aren’t at ease with such tasks or behaviour. Resistance from the freshers is considered unacceptable and a healthy interaction turns ugly. Many times, the ‘Mob Attitude’ caused by adrenaline rush and excitement in the group also makes ragging a far cry from a harmless fun. Rather, it leaves behind mental scars amongst the victim. Students consider ragging as an old ritual having social acceptance.
Casual attitude of the Public – Ragging is generally viewed as just another event glorified by the media by the people. No doubt, that sometimes media glorifies such events but the truth is still the truth. People belonging to the ‘Old School’, have an image of simple teasing, singing, dancing etc. which is far from the truth. For some ragging is non-existent as they have never come across it or are totally unaware of it’s existence. Even if people happen to come across, they consider it as an exception. Even those who have indulged in it whilst studying, justify it morally.
Peer Pressure – Not all seniors want to rag but they are forced or provoked to do so by their classmates. Not adhering to what they say is considered as an act of cowardice. They are taunted and are indirectly pressurised to indulge in ragging, because ragging has been established as a test of courage by the seniors. Then there are those who rag just to join a group or be known as tough even if they disagree with the idea of ragging.
Lack of Alternative Means – Largely, there is communication gap between the seniors and juniors. Even if they want to interact, there is an invisible line of seniority and juniority which hinders a cordial environment where students can interact without any hassle. There are no formal set-ups of introduction or familiarisation, which can put an end to such harsh introductions.
Negative role of the Media – The media is also responsible for the promotion of ragging, though in an indirect manner. Various movies have been portraying ‘Ragging’ as normal event in a student’s life. This provides a false sense of belief in ragging as being a normal event whilst the reality is changing rapidly. Various Hollywood teenage movies also portray such events as a normal part of growing up. Additionally, they also provide lots of ideas to conduct ragging. Violence and massacre is also being fed to the new generation, which is inspired by these. Then there are ‘Reality Shows’ like ‘Roadies’and its similar counterparts have a similar theme and as such promote ragging in an indirect manner. News channel are more concerned with ‘Being There in the First Place’ and TRP ratings. Once the news becomes stale, there is no ‘Follow-Up’. In this manner the role of media becomes negative towards ragging.
Disadvantages of Ragging
Demoralisation amongst Students – There is no doubt that, Ragging puts a huge dent on the victims morale. Abusive acts have a grave effect on one’s personality and may cause irreparable damage depending upon the severity of the act. It may affect the victim to such an extent that he may develop a phobia for educational institutes. Those who have been directed to extreme ragging, loose interest in academic pursuits all together. All high hopes and aspirations towards one’s goals and aspirations come crashing down to the ground, leaving one helpless and maimed for the rest of his life. Ragging adversely impacts the standards of higher education.
Encourages Suicidal Tendencies – News about suicides and related deaths clearly show the impact of ragging on a student. Sexual abuse by forced stripping, masturbation, forced unnatural sex etc. are unbearable and shameful. While some may recover from such traumatic experiences but for some the pain and shame clouds the mind towards suicide. This weak state of mind, if not countered leads to death of the victim. Peers and alike too get affected as they fear such an outcome or may develop a paranoia.
Ragging promotes Violence – When ragging acquires an abusive form it promotes violence in an environment where education is meant to be promoted. In an educational set-up, there is groupism wherein people with similar interests, caste, background etc. form an exclusive association. Those who indulge in Ragging are in an informal way – an association meant to control newcomers. If things don’t work, their way it leads to mob mentality and violent mindset. Violence also ends in Physical injuries through beating, by forceful attempts to perform dangerous tasks. Such injuries can even make one physically handicapped for the rest of his life.
Hampers Nation’s Growth – The students of today are the future of tomorrow and if the present of the students is marred by such experiences, it can hamper a nation’s growth. Brilliant minds who would have contributed towards the development of the society, are reduced to being victims of circumstances. It might seem a bit odd but if we take a closer look, it is not just the victim, but other students are affected too. The fear and lack of action on their part becomes a burden on the young mind. This affected mind might not be able to reach their potential just because of some silly act.
Strengthens the Perpetrator, if not punished – Inaction or ineffective action on part of the concerned authority only encourages the mindset and attitude of the accused to indulge in such an act again. It is simple to verify this fact as the Perpetrator gains confidence in his act as being a normal one and that he is beyond the law. There are chances that he might indulge in such an act on someone or the same victim whom he has traumatised as a counteract. Similarly, it also instils as sense of achievement and superiority amongst those or the one involved. Similar effect can take place in the mindset of other seniors.
Encourages Road to Quick Fame – Anther negative effect of ragging is the notion of acquiring quick fame in both the victim and the initiator. Since ragging gets publicised in news, even when it is meant for information, it encourages tendency amongst the youth to get attention in shortest and easiest manner. Everybody likes to be in the limelight but when this limelight is sought in such a manner, it acquires a negative form. The perpetrator is willing to indulge in such activity just because he wants to be known or appear in the news. Strangely, the juniors also view the event in a similar manner because they will also end up being in the news. Such tendency encourages even more ragging, even for those who don’t want publicity.
Human Rights Abuse – Ragging is a ‘Clear Cut’ violation of Human Rights to which all citizens should be concerned about. Human Rights Abuse is unacceptable in any society and if such an abuse occurs it is a sign weakness of the authority of a nation. This can go long way in damaging a country’s rapport as a ‘Fair One’. It can even have far reaching consequences, it can affect business, tourism etc. For example a country which cannot protect its citizens Human Rights gains a reputation of being an unsafe one, especially for tourists.
Ragging encourages other Harmful Activities – Sometimes raging involves forceful consumption of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other harmful substances. There is no saying what will be the outcome of such an event. However, a common outcome is the addiction to such substances, which is even far more destructive than ‘One Time Ragging’. Further, the victims may introduce these to their peers and so on. Sexual abuse can have destructive effects as it might lead to sexual promiscuity and other deranged sexual conditions where the victim might become the offender. Political Field Ground - Ragging cases attracts politics. Any political Party with a certain agenda can cause furore in a region or the whole country. Political parties are hungry for controversies and use these to gain mileage for the elections or defacing a certain personality and so on. Certain student organisations are funded by political parties or influence a youth leader towards initiating a protest or strike which not only disturbs the peace of the campus, it also wastes precious study times as these are also subject of politicisation.
Promotes Exploitation – Whenever ragging takes place, another process takes place and that is ‘Self-Exploitation’. When the victims are forced to obey the commands, they are unwittingly promoting themselves to be exploited, even when they don’t want to. This tendency gets mapped in our minds and in the future course of our lives whenever we are faced with tough circumstances, we are all ready tuned to be exploited. Moreover, if the victim is blackmailed through ragging pictures and videos taken during the act, exploitation in the primary stage becomes a stair of successive exploitation, unless the victim raises his/her voice.
Disrupts Peace – Any act of violence disturbs the peace of any country. In the same lieu, an act of violence at an educational institute can erupt into a regional or national unrest. It’s effect can be gauged from the fact that often caste, region, class etc. underline the act of ragging and as such it becomes a source of indifference amongst those involved. Strikes, fights, vandalism and other anti-social activities curb peace.
False Sense of Importance – Just like the ‘Quick Road to Fame’ philosophy, ragging also provides a false sense of importance amongst the students. In today’s generation driven by the urge to be famous, at all costs, it is very shocking to view ragging as a symbol of importance. There are certain section of students which correlate ragging with importance. For them the experience of being bullied means that he/she is worthy in the eyes of the seniors. It makes them feel important. This attitude makes the victim, irresponsible as they would rather not report such an incident as it would diminish their importance. This makes ragging ‘Self Perpetuating’ as ragging is still being conducted but not reported.
Anti Ragging Techniques or Methods
Prevention is better than Cure – The one authority which is the most responsible, is the college or university itself. It is here that these acts are conducted and it is here that it should be nipped from the bud. It is the primary responsibility of the institution to maintain discipline and punish the offenders, in a way that such acts instil fear of negative outcomes upon the conduct of ragging. This prevention can be put to effect through the following Methods:
Ant-Ragging Lessons at School Level – The most effective and primary action which can be the most effective towards curbing ragging can be achieved at the school level. Young minds are sensitive and they need to be made aware of human rights. Awareness of such acts, it’s consequence and not adhering to other’s cruelty, moulds the young mind into non-indulgence of such activities. Teachers also need to abstain from physical punishment in any form or at any level, as these actions also encourages the repetition of the same by the students. Similarly, special courses should be included at the B.Ed. level or special training can be provided at a later stage, to sensitise against corporal punishment and checking of bullying amongst students.
Compulsory Pre-Session Announcement – At the basic level, before the commencement of each academic session, the Head of the institution should clearly and specifically, give a warning that ragging in no manner will be acceptable. The message should also inform the students of the appropriate punishment which will not be revoked, unless proved innocent. The podium on which the announcement is being undertaken, needs to have the presence of police, wardens, faculty and other staff members which displays the sternness of the announcement.
Alternate to Ragging – The menace of ragging can be curbed by providing alternate, healthy ways of interaction which are more effective and free of cruelty, with the help of psychological science. Such platforms can be in the form of pre-session 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. Friendly supervised ragging through games, activities etc. itself can nullify the brutal ragging or harmful ragging itself. These activities feed the curiosity and enable friendly socialisation. When the two groups have been introduced, there is less or no chance of ragging to occur.
Publicity of Anti-Ragging Material – Anti-Ragging material needs to be distributed and publicised throughout the premises of an institute. This material can be emphasised in prospectus, application forms, admission advertisements and admission forms. Similarly, websites of the institutes can also flash Anti-Ragging material. Zero-Tolerance towards Ragging or Ragging-Free Banners, posters, notices depicting the consequences of such an act need to be posted at strategic points of the premises. Such messages make it clear amongst the psyche of the seniors that ragging is unacceptable. These messages tend to have a binding effect on the ragging urges as it is associated with serious consequence.
Anti-Ragging Bodies – Institutes should constitute Anti-Ragging Bodies or Cells whose members are students, faculty, staff, private detectives, police etc., can effectively discourage ragging. These bodies can work under cover or openly with badges displaying ‘Anti-Ragging Squad Member’ for promotion of anti-ragging message. This Squad can be given the power of conducting surprise raids on hostels and other possible spots. To make it persuadable, participants should also be granted some incentives depending upon the position of the members. Example, students can be provided free accommodation in hostel or certain amount of fee waiver.
Free Ragging Helpline – Institute authority should install ‘Free Ragging Helpline’ at strategic points. Complaint Drop Boxes especially meant for these and email help should be provided. Institutes can rope in any multimedia or telecom company in return of free publicity in their campus. Such a facility can also be sponsored by government or private bodies.
Supervision of Hostels – Hostels are one place where ragging is most likely to take place and most likely to remain unreported or unnoticed. 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. Some non-residents and residents students can also be given certain privileges to encourage them to be informants about possible ragging acts and seniors who have tendency towards such acts.
Supervision of Residential Premises outside the Campus - Hostels which are located outside the boundaries of the campus need constant vigilance. Private establishment providing residential facilities to hostellers should registered with the local police authorities. Police and the institute authorities can put an effective surveillance through routine check-ups and through CCTV cameras installed at strategic points.
Incentives to Colleges and Universities – Another preventive measure is providing funding and incentives to institutes which have a clean record. Similarly, the authority and its members should awarded during important events and function for maintaining proper discipline. These incentives can be in the form of televised achievement, money award, honorary badges, newspaper publicity, providing certain facilities etc. These act as a motivational sources against ragging even before they can take place.
Collective Effort – Prevention of ragging can be the most effective if Ant-Ragging is backed by collective effort. Collective effort on the part of society and especially the academic community. Thus it should involve administrators, employees of institutes, legal experts, media persons, parents, psychologists, political representatives, representatives of State Governments and local authorities, students, student organizations, statutory authorities, social activists, sociologists, teachers, victims of ragging and all others. Concentration and cooperation of all these act as boundary walls against ragging. Here, the unity of all the involved itself counters the action of ragging even before it can take place.