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Anti-intellectual behaviour of university students:

Ragging and ‘teaching sessions’

Continued from yesterday

During this time, the student union and its leaders congregate to plan for ragging and they also invite hardcore supporters several days, sometime weeks before the beginning of the term.

Together they organize a series of parallel activities to be carried out often before and after the official working times on weekends and sometimes during official working times sabotaging the activities organized by the University.

These student leaders and supporters spend days putting up colourful posters with beautiful words of welcome, traditional pandals, and flags and all kinds of cutouts depicting the fighting spirit of ‘exploited and suppressed students”.

Students enter the university to climb the intellectual ladder

It is common during this period to see these university students who supposed to be our future, running up and down the road carrying ‘alawangus’ ‘unabamboos’ and carrying ‘pappa baaldis’ and putting up posters, climbing trees very similar to political ‘henchaiyyas’ (stooges) during election campaigns. The University library is empty!

On the very first day, when the students come with their parents, the student union leaders and their group of supporters who later become the ‘rag leaders’ pretend to work hard to welcome them and help them to get about although neither their presence nor their help is needed or required as the University authorities have made all arrangements.

At the opening ceremony, in the company of the like of Vice-Chancellor and Dean, the student union president, who is more often than not intellectually mediocre student, addresses the gathering using the typical socialist discourse that includes - the political rights of students, historical sacrifices made by the students leaders for the student movement, the problems the university students are facing, and the need to be united to fight for their rights and that the student union is the “sole representative” of the students. The address is responded with a planned thundering applause.

With this address the union achieves its legitimacy among the students and even the parents who tend to believe that the union is larger than life and even the University.

End of the first day is also the end of the wonderful stay at the University for the fresh students who come to University with the potential and hope to climb the intellectual ladder and to win the world.

That very night, the student union becomes a busybody executing its sadistic ragging displaying their true hypocritical nature. They go to all the residential halls and threaten the students to go to specified places within the University by 7.00 am for “teaching sessions” a pseudonym for “ragging sessions”.

The students in their hundreds meekly follow these orders clad in the union-defined uniform of ankle long black skirts, hair breaded, slippers for girls, and black pants without belts, short sleeve shirts and slippers for boys.

They are forced to march in formation of two led by the student leaders to these places which have come to become “exclusive homelands” of the student unions where even the writ of the University rules and by-laws do not apply.

In some of these places, for example, the Student Union Office - the safe heavens of the union leaders and those who student who were punished and suspended from the University for various offences- the union leaders and rag leaders, often the same group, stay day and night illegally.

It is certainly a very sad scene when the intellectual cream of the nation clad in demeaning attire are led along the road like a heard of buffaloes. The student leaders, just as buffalo herders push and force these students to run if they are slow or late.

Once they are congregated the real ideological indoctrination, terror, mental and physical harassment starts. For about an hour, the first years undergo this intimidating exercise of being initiated into the so called University student subculture as defined by the union leaders who are essentially anti-intellectual mediocre bunch.

Let me highlight a few of the lessons that are consistently emphasized directly and indirectly by the student leaders to the first years who believe literally what is told to them and act on them from this day onward.

1. The student teacher relationship is portrayed in terms of a class relationship in which students become the oppressed and the teachers the oppressors. Thus, students are told not to develop friendly relations with the teachers who are essentially portrayed as opponents.

2. The University and University life is projected as a misery, full of hardship and difficulties.

3. Students should not meet the lecturers in their offices outside the lectures as it will lead to special relationships with the teachers and that undermines the comradeship of students.

4. Male teachers are generally inclined to sexually abuse female students and thus under no circumstances a female student should visit the office of a male lecturer alone. Hence, the practice of two girls visits.

5. Students should not speak in English as it’s the ‘para bhasawa’. meaning not only a foreign but also oppressive). Generally, the union leaders are English illiterate.

6. Students should not ask questions in the classes. The stated reason is that it distracts the lecturer but the real reasons is that it could lead to some students being noticed for their intellect and this ‘Kepi peneema’ undermines the comradeship of students.

7. The students’ primary responsibility is for the student movement and to protect the rights and duties of students as defined by the student union.

Some of the rights and duties of students expressly conveyed to the first years are a.) they should support the existing student council and not challenge the student leaders, b.) they should never oppose ragging c.) they should never organize alternative student organizations, d.) they financially support the activities of and recommended by the student union including protests, picketing, collecting money. Missing lectures to support the student movement is not a problem but it is demanded.

8. Anyone who opposes the dictates of the students union and its leaders at any time will be dealt appropriately meaning physical assault.

9. Students should learn to defy and violate the rules of the University. They should not carry the University ID and if they do it should not be produced to the authorities. If asked by the authorities, they should either keep silence - dead silence, and if they have to speak, they should inform that they are here voluntarily.

10. Student are given nick names (often very demeaning and cannot be used in public) and only these nicknames can be used in communications.

These aliases are used primarily as a means of preventing the University authorities identifying the students who are involved in ragging and other unlawful activities.

11. Students need not neither respect nor cooperate with the University authorities.

12. Students should lose fear and shame (lajja and baya) to speak against and defy the authorities and even to engage in unethical behaviour in a civilized democratic society.

The students are forced to write absolute filth in their own files and books and loudly utter them in public referring to their own bodies, their private parts, parents, and teachers and utter them in front of their fellow students (none of it can be written here as it will break the laws against obscenity).

13. They should be nationalists valuing the local. This most immature ideological call for parochialism and rejection globalization clearly reflect the bankrupt communism.

14. All political leaders of the nation, except those in JVP are essentially portrayed as anti-student.

The network of student leaders and their supporters station “student spies” in strategic places for intelligence i.e. to inform whether the University authorities are approaching.

If University authorities approach, the union leaders and their supporters transform into a calm, and friendly gathering superficially but the bodily expressions of the victimized first year students reveal a different story.

The union led raggers who were noted by the authorities sneak out as the authorities arrive at the venue.

The union leaders, stay behind, argue with the authorities and justify the “friendly gathering and acquaintance” taking place!

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