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.
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.
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.
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
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
(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.
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
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.