Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ragging - a national shame!

As I reluctantly go to links of popular Indian newspaper websites these days, I am never sure if I will find something there to be proud about or will what I find there make me more ashamed of being an Indian. If one particular news piece reads ‘2 Oscars for Madras Mozart Rahman!’ then the one sitting directly next to it in another column will read ’19 year old youth dies due to excessive ragging’. It is a feeling that leaves me nauseated every single time along with the common conclusion – should I be happy for the achievement or sad for the disgusting root rot our society continues to exhibit so shamelessly? I am never sure.

I am not delusional – of course I know there is no such thing as Utopia where the grass is always green and streets are always clean. But notwithstanding people’s constant urge not to be preached to, the question still remains – what is wrong with our society? What good is our ground breaking technology and booming economy if we blatantly sit by and allow such heinous crimes to take place? Where is the justification to call ourselves ‘a progressive society’ when boys and girls are abused so openly right under the stinking nose of the so-called administration? How many more candles should we light in order to finally slap the sleeping ‘protectors of social justice’ and tell them – ‘Get up or get lost!’

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

Despite the constant itch for global recognition we find a thousand ways to keep scratching why are we still so uncultured? Why on Earth do we behave in such carnal ways and continue to prove that the filthy cesspool that Slumdog Millionaire’s young protagonist gleefully jumps into to get a superstar’s autograph was indeed a disgusting metaphor to the way our country continues to ‘progress’ each year? One step forward means ten steps backwards. It is absolutely sickening. The deep seeded mode of constant denial and appalling levels of merciless complacency in our nation makes me cringe.

I have been hearing of this ragging menace for as long as I can remember. Why, even today I can recall vivid conversations my mother used to have with us explaining how ruthless college hostels in India were and how the junior students there were physically and mentally abused before being ‘accepted’ into their ‘college clan’. And oh what a glorious clan indeed! Nothing more than a bunch of mind numbingly dim witted moronic rowdies who parade around their over inflated ego just for the one ludicrous reason that they are ‘older in age’ than their victims. Are we really this juvenile? Do we really have to make front page news across the globe for such asinine reasons from our 'shining' world of academia? No wonder none of the students from around the world want to study in India! Ever heard of an American or European student almost dying to go to a University in India? No? Well...mystery solved! How can we ever claim that we are a ‘potential super power’ when we can’t even control our own messy back yard? How many more deaths should take place before college administration finally brings the hammer on the sorry little heads of these criminals who reside in thousands of places all over the country? Shameful! Absolutely and utterly shameful!

Take Aman Kachroo’s example. What was his fault? That he wanted a bright future for himself? That he had dreamt of becoming someone someday? That he wanted to help the society that had given him a context by becoming a doctor? And what happened instead? Some crooks who called themselves ‘students’ did him to death in the name of ‘ragging’. A sad bottom line to the story of a man who wanted to give life but was eventually denied the same in the end.

As much as I feel angry and betrayed by the education system and the gubernatorial powers that be in India about such cases, what I also know is this isn’t the first and this wont be the last. It is in this grass root level of complacent mediocrity and shocking outrage that I send my deepest condolences to Aman’s family. Your son did not deserve this death and I hope – I sincerely hope – that his untimely, unjust and unacceptable demise does not go without being avenged.

May his soul rest in peace. Amen.


1 reflections:

Harsh said...

Ragging: Can we ever solve this problem?

-Harsh Agarwal

In July 2008, CURE analysed the ragging incidents of past 5 years and did a comparative study with the cases reported after the Supreme Court judgment in May, 2007. It was shocking to know that even after the SC judgment, 11 cases of death due to ragging and 5 cases of attempted suicides were reported by the media and there was no significant decrease in ragging. After making so much effort to curb ragging, whenever a fresh case is reported it makes everyone think as to why we are still not able to successfully deal with this menace? It makes us feel disappointed to comprehend the fact that the most educated section of our society is involved in one of the worst form of human rights abuse. Let us understand some of the important fundamental issues associated with ragging which are essential to be understood and addressed if we really want to get rid of this social menace. These are the issues which have been ignored or have not been addressed with the right spirit.

Anonymity of the Complainant: This is the first step to solve the menace and one of the key elements if we want to encourage the fresher to report any incident of ragging. There is tremendous fear in the minds of the freshers and huge possibility of backlash because of which the fresher decides to tolerate ragging and as a result almost 99.99% of the ragging cases go unreported and problem remains suppressed. Provisions like putting a compliant box or expecting the fresher to report the incident to anti ragging cell/committee don’t work because such provisions fail to convince the fresher of complete anonymity and his /her safety.

The best way to tackle this problem is by making it mandatory for every college in the country to do a weekly/fortnightly anonymous survey of the entire first year batch to find out if any sort of ragging is taking place in their college. The idea is to encourage the students by approaching the entire batch and maintaining absolute anonymity rather than waiting for a whistle blower to come forward and report the incident. Unless we make this important provision, the college authorities will continue to live in oblivion and feel that ragging is not a problem in their institution.

Awareness: This is another key element in solving this problem. Ragging is still not considered as social evil and law cannot help in doing so but awareness can. Though ragging has been banned but since the time it has been banned there is an atmosphere of confusion prevailing in the campus. There is confusion as to what is ragging what is not; what will happen to the senior–junior interaction in the absence of ragging. Reason as to why ragging has been banned, what are the ill effects of ragging, what is its origin? Where did it come from? – These questions have not been answered and can never be answered by simply distributing pamphlets giving details about the provisions of punishment or about the contact details of anti ragging committee members. Perhaps that is why several students still believe that this ban has been unnecessarily imposed on them. It is therefore very important to disseminate right information about ragging, about its origin, highlight its ill effects, and why is it irrelevant in today’s time. Also, we need to introduce alternative and healthier methods of interaction to replace ragging to break the ice between the seniors and freshers.

Psychological Menace: Ragging is more of a psychological problem than anything else. Ragging is perhaps the only Social and Human Rights problem in the world in which the victim himself/herself becomes the perpetrator of this crime in a short span of one year. This problem can best be solved by going into the roots of this menace and understanding its psychology. Psychological concepts like Stanford Prison Experiment, Miligram Experiment, Stockholm syndrome, which have close similarities with the psychology of ragging need to be studied carefully to understand this problem and look for appropriate solution.

Role of Media: Be it publishing a front page picture of a Delhi University boy giving rose to a girl to portray ragging or writing only about the provision of FIR or quantum of punishment with regard to ragging, media has failed to disseminate the right information and essential knowledge about ragging. Since the Supreme Court judgment in 2007, the role of the media with regard to ragging has been more to spread sensation. Though there is a long list of guidelines made in the Raghavan Committee report but media chose to highlight only few sensational ones. Today all that the country knows about the Raghavan Committee report is about provision of filing an FIR or about provision of sending director of a college to jail but is completely ignorant about the dozens of other important recommendations/guidelines which can be key to solve the problem of ragging.

Hard Approach: This provision should be used as deterrence and as the last resort when all the other softer efforts fail to curb ragging. Firstly, we need to look from a 17-18 year old fresher’s perspective and understand that a young student who joins the college with a dream to become a doctor or an engineer will find it extremely fearful to use the provision of FIR and later get involved in a court case. Secondly, gathering evidence to prove any ragging incident has always been very difficult as nobody comes forward to testify. Thirdly, we need to ask ourselves that is it easy to de-recognize an institution or stop its fund if it is several decades old and there are several hundred students studying in it? What will happen to the future of those innocent students who were not involved in ragging? What will happen to several hundred crores of the public money spent on building that college? And when ragging is so rampant in our country then how many Medical or Engineering colleges will we de-recognize? How many Directors of such institutions would we send to jail? Fourthly, successful implementation of hard approach depends largely whether various stakeholders of ragging are convinced that it is bad. Presently ragging is seen as an age old ritual by the college community, there are conflicting views about ragging, for some it is a painful torture whereas for others it is a healthy interaction or a personality development exercise. When knowledge about ragging is so low then how will we be able to implement these harsh measures?

Unless and until we act on the above issues seriously, college authorities will continue to label ragging deaths as suicides due to academic pressure; majority of the ragging incidents will continue to go unreported; seniors and teachers will continue to believe that ragging is a healthy interactive and personality development exercise; media will continue to report only sensational stuff about ragging; parents, relatives and society will fail to understand the pain of the ragging victim, and as a result of all this, the harsh provision to curb ragging might soon loose its deterrent effect and we may never be able to solve this problem.
(Harsh Agarwal is a Co-founder of Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education CURE and a former consultant to Raghavan Committee on Ragging and can be reached at