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Say no to ragging

What we need today, like in India, an official anti-ragging movement. But with the situation of ragging worsening yearly, there is a self emerging anti-ragging movement in some faculties of our universities. Faculties in several universities have minimised ragging due to these movements. These are good signs. However, internal clashes have erupted several times due to the friction between ragging and anti-ragging movements.

“Sri Lanka, of late, is worst affected by the menace of ragging in the world. It has now spread from universities to other institutions such as Technical Colleges,” said Chief Justice Asoka de Silva recently. He was addressing the national convention on student discipline: Anti Ragging and Anti Violence held at Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.

“The university is an ideal place for the improvement of intellectual artistic and technical skills, and can bring a blend of traditional values and modern knowledge by carrying our rational arguments between students themselves and students and lectures. It is our duty to make university premises a place to execute these requirements eliminating any negative impact such as ragging and violence by establishing youth discipline,” the justice stressed.

Record

There is no record to prove any act similar to ragging has prevailed in the ancient Sri Lankan educational institutions. History tells us that a type of ragging is believed to have been started in its mild form in the 8th century A.D. during the Olympics in Greece. Later the armed forces of several countries started practicing this ritual.

In 1975, University of Peradeniya was the first University in Sri Lanka to report a major ragging related incident when a 22 year old student of the Faculty of Agriculture, became paralyzed as a result of having jumped from the second floor of the hostel hall to escape the physical ragging being carried out by the seniors. She later committed suicide in 1997. Twenty two years later, another 21 year old Engineering student of University of Peradeniya died from a kidney failure following severe ragging by senior students. During the past 30 years, we witnessed a number of ragging- related deaths and hundreds of students who underwent life-long effects of traumatic mental abuse due to the ragging. Each year, dozens of students began to leave their study courses due to unbearable ragging they have undergone.

Strict laws were made and universities devised alternative methods of interaction but even today ragging is continued in most government universities, technical colleges and several private institutions.

Abuse

The initial period of the ragging is called ‘Mal Samaya’. This is a period when seniors begin mocking and jesting at newcomers. They may be asked to climb a tree, propose to someone from the opposite sex, hold a hand of someone from opposite sex and walk. Nobody cares since it is a not much of an unpleasant experience.

The situation changes when the verbal torture starts. The newcomers may be asked to sing the lyrics of a vulgar song or use abusive language in the presence of a large number of peers. During this time, seniors assign a demeaning nick name, known as card to the juniors and they have to be called by that name throughout their entire university life. This nick name may be changed later. In some instances, students have to memorize poems comprising of filth and recite them in front of others.

At some stage, physical torture moves in. It is the severest form of ragging that could take place in a university. Some seniors are mainly interested in details such as the anatomical description of one’s body parts, his or her sexual interests etc. However, sexual abuse of female students remains non-existent. The students who stay in hostels are most vulnerable to ragging. They may be asked to do odd acts such as having showers several times at night. There may be instances where the newcomer is forced to perform dangerous tasks or sexual abuse by forced unnatural sex etc. Some call this period Bheeshana Samaya locally.

To the credit of the most of the senior students, it should be mentioned that they do not wish to rag their juniors. But due to the peer pressure of a few, they finally give in.

Movement

What we need today, like in India, an official anti-ragging movement. But with the situation of ragging worsening yearly, there is a self emerging anti-ragging movement in some faculties of our universities. Faculties in several universities have minimised ragging due to these movements. These are good signs. However, internal clashes have erupted several times due to the friction between ragging and anti-ragging movements.

I met a group of young graduates recently who were in favour of ragging. Their arguments were interesting.

1. Ragging makes a student bold and prepares for the difficult circumstances in Life. It makes us strong.

(Wrong. Boldness as instilled by ragging is a weak acceptance of fate by victims. It teaches us how to be exploited by others and we are trained to accept it non-resistively.) 2. Ragging helps in breaking the ice between the seniors and newcomers. It helps in their interaction and developing friendship between them.

(Wrong. Ragging is an archaic method of interaction with several harmful effects. Today with advance psychological science there are many other healthy ways of interaction which are more effective and without any human rights abuse.) 3. Ragging generates a feeling of unity and Oneness.

(Wrong. Ragging divides the students on the lines of caste, region, class etc. It sets mob mentality in the students.) This is what is happening. Students believe that they were ragged so they have the right to rag their juniors. Students believe that it is the only way by which seniors and newcomers can interact. Students are inculcated with the logic that seniors who rag them will help them later. Students feel that they are familiar with their seniors only because they were ragged and thus it ensures the legacy of ragging.

What they do not understand is that every student has a different level of emotional sensitivity. Students are unaware of this and they expect that what they have gone through during their ragging must be endured by their newcomers too.

Solution

So, what is the solution? The problem of ragging needs to be approached with a human rights perspective and the question of ragging should be addressed as a concern of Education Law. Social and psychological contexts are equally important for approaching the issue of ragging.

Alternative methods

We should promote alternative methods of interactions eg. dramas, community work, adventurous sports, short trips, evening games and gathering in the presence of hostel warden, Dance, Competitions, name game and various other activities devised by psycho-synthesis and human behaviour experts. Second year students must be sensitized about the evils of ragging and the various myths about it. We should introduce the concept of sub-group mentorship, with few chosen seniors responsible for the well being of different groups of newcomers.

At the same time, we must create a massive nationwide awareness about ragging. Efforts should be made to make ragging a social evil, by highlighting its ill-effects and thus establish a public opinion against it It is heartening to note that measures are being put in place by University Grants Commission to curb ragging at universities. Through University Authorities’ intervention, and the cooperation of the citizens, parents and senior students, ragging can be effectively curbed and uprooted, as has been the case in countries like Canada and Japan.

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