Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ragging... Crime unchecked !

I was going through the ‘trick post’ on Kaddu’s blog about the ongoing situation in Australia which incited a lot of sentiments all around. And ending her post, she wondered whether our Government would manage to find answers to some really serious problems in our own country even if it does find one for the Australia-scenario. It would, probably. Because it’s the question of the safety of Indian students there in Australia.

Which brings to mind a simple question. A very simple one, in fact.

Are students in India any more safer than those Indian students studying in Australia ???

No. I’m not referring to any foreign students who are studying here. I’m talking about Indian students studying in India itself. Well, what about their safety…. would be the question you would ask me right now. Ok. So, how safe, exactly, was a boy named Aman Kachroo while studying to become a doctor in a Medical College in our own country ???

Now, you would ask me why I’m picking up an off-season topic to speak about. An incident that is past and almost forgotten. And what relevance does it have to the ongoing incidents in Australia. It was just a case of ragging….

Well, there isn’t exactly an off-season for ragging in our country. And even if you manage to convince me that there is, then we are just about to hit the peak-season, with most of the academic sessions about to get underway in a few days time.

To put matters in their right place, I’m not at all trying to defend what is happening in Australia. But for those who are quick to jump to conclusions, I just want to direct attentions to similar matters occurring right here which seem to evaporate pretty quickly from our minds. In fact, ragging is just an uglier form of racism. Only that, a person being ragged is spared from the accusations of “You Indian…!!!” while being brutalized.

Ragging in India is not an issue related to some unknown colleges or universities. In fact, the most reputed institutions have been known to bear the brunt of the menace for long. The list includes the IIMs, the IITs, and numerous other elite engineering colleges across the country. I didn’t mention any medical institute not because they escape the notorious list, but because there would hardly be any medical college in India irrespective of its reputation, which would be a stranger to the most brutal forms of ragging.

But don’t we all know about these facts already ? Yes. We do. So, instead of getting into unnecessary facts, let us get down to the problem itself.

I have heard many ‘knowledgeable’ people speak at lengths on the benefits of ragging. I cannot comment on other fields, but, as far as the medical field is concerned, ragging, according to the ‘learned’ persons presents with the following benefits…

(a) Bringing back to earth, the airy minds of the freshers who are in a state of assumption that they can now play God. (after cracking the medical entrance examination)
(b) To prepare the freshers for the tough study schedule and extended hours of sleepless hospital postings.
(c) To prepare the freshers for the tough real life after and outside the college campus.
(d) To teach the new students to always respect their seniors and teachers.
(e) To ‘break the ice’ between the freshers and the seniors.
(f) To help the freshers to settle well into the ‘home away from home’, which is, the hostel.

I guess the same goes for the freshers of other academic fields except for the first one and a half points above. And thus, I’m forced to stop and think about the validity of the above reasons in the favor of the menace we are presently talking about.

Here, at this point, I’m tempted to provide first hand accounts of people’s experiences about how they were ragged. But as we all are too familiar to all that and because I don’t want you to go through horrific stories that people have managed to share, it would be better to skip those.

I’m forced to find reason in the madness of trying to teach basic morals to adults entering college life. Isn’t that something which our schools are made to take care of ? Is the best way to teach freshers about manners is to beat them up black and blue ? Are the juniors forced to learn to respect their seniors out of fear ? Isn’t it true that respect can only be commanded and not demanded ?

But the sad truth of it is that the freshers learn a precious secret very soon if they do not know it before. Which is, that, they need to be in the good books of the seniors in order to avail benefits in the form of books, notes and valuable academic advice. And this they can only manage by satisfying their seniors’ demands for sadistic pleasures in the name of ragging. Self-respecting individuals who refuse to give in have to face the consequences. They are labeled as outcasts who are never allowed to settle comfortably into their campus life.

I would here quote the experience of a well known ex-IITian who faced brutal ragging himself.

“For freshmen, getting ragged for a month was a rite of passage that would ensure them free books and the patronage of someone powerful. It was easier to 'get it over with' than be ostracized (so they were told) for the rest of their stay in the hostel.”

Why are the juniors made to believe that their academic life is doomed if they don’t receive ‘help’ from their seniors ? Doesn’t it kill the self-confidence of a fresher about his own capabilities ? And they speak of instilling confidence in the name of ragging….

Why should a newcomer be asked to get habitual in the use of the filthiest of abuses as a part of ragging ? Does that actually help in making him a more decent and sober individual for the future ? Why should he be subject to absolutely inhuman and perverted acts and forcefully made to think and express the same ? Does that prepare him all the better for the ‘real’ world outside ? It baffles the mind…

One thing this certainly does is to corrupt a previously innocent person to the extent of becoming one of those ‘perverts’ you can find out there on the streets. Simply adding to the number of such men in our society. I wonder if girls are subjected to anything similar too. Probably yes, after case of a particular engineering college in Andhra Pradesh came to light.

As far as ‘breaking the ice’ with the seniors goes, does someone really need to be humiliated to world’s end to become familiar with strangers ? Do we always punch up the strangers we meet at our new work-place in order to get to know them well ? Do we need to insult someone to gain their confidence ? No. We do not. Why then, do we accept that ragging does ‘break the ice’ ? Why cant people resist the urge to torment a fresher ?

It is because ragging is probably the only time in most people’s life to experience power over other people. The power to humiliate, to instill fear and to extract sadistic pleasure at the expense of a nervous newcomer.

And the worst part of it all is the feeling of revenge which the ragged fresher nurtures all through the duration of ragging, only to unleash it all when he is in control of the power, over his juniors. And that is one of the reasons why this menace is so hard to put an end to. If you ask me, to take out one’s revenge on innocent newcomers who are already very anxious about their new life amongst strangers away from home, is nothing but a cowardly act.

That is why we cannot see an end to this practice. I don’t think there is anything that the Government can do about it. Don’t we find strict warnings all around campuses banning ragging of any sort ? But it still goes on in most of them. Reason ? No fresher would risk getting labeled as an outcast and spoiling his or her chances of the all important ‘help’ from the seniors. Those that do come out in the open are usually those who have been tortured beyond tolerance, the damage been done already.

The possible cure, if I’m right, can be achieved only when a particular batch of freshers stand tough by not letting themselves become a channel that passes on this ‘tradition’ down every subsequent batch. Even if they feel the need for revenge, they have to take it out on those who ragged them. Rather than some innocent newcomer.

Luckily, being a part of the pioneer batch in college, I was never subjected to any such insanity. And it showed off one year later when the juniors arrived. None of us had that feeling of revenge which we could possibly have had we been witness to any seniors deriving sadistic pleasures at our cost. In other words, our batch didn’t require to torture the juniors in order to gel with them. But we were lucky at not having to either sacrifice our revenge or face any hazards which would have resulted from our giving it back to any seniors.

What I don’t understand is why does a whole group of individuals let themselves be subject to inhumanity at the hands of another group which is equal in numbers. Is it just because the other group consists of people one or two years older than them ? Or even more ridiculously, consisting of those who have managed to be admitted to that institute barely one year earlier ? People who haven't a clue to their own twisted psyches, but who are busy twisting those of others. I can’t see how a particular group can become so enriched with wisdom and experience in a period of just one year that they find it absolutely necessary to pass it on to the next group for their own benefit.

Which is why, I think there cannot be a reason to this madness that has been polluting even our most reputed institutes. I completely disagree with all the so-called 'benefits' of harmless and clean ragging as debated by some of its supporters. It is rather, just a term to legitimize to some extent, the acts of crime which certain perverted individuals commit. And those are not few, but, in fact, spread all across our country. And it is no better than any racist attack.

So, along with demanding security for Indian students in Australia shouldn’t we be demanding safety of Indian students in India ? But honestly, there’s nothing that any Government can do about it. It is we ourselves who have to be strong enough to put an end to such a menace. Be it ragging, or for that matter, racism.


  1. Good one! I had a feeling u were going to write on ragging when u mentioned "the last line" of m post in ur comment!

    I don't mind healthy singing/dancing/debating etc in the name of ragging... or even walking up to someone from the opposite sex & initiating a conversation with him/her regarding anything... simple & friendly stuff like that u know, that might indeed help in ice-breaking, and in getting over fear of public speaking etc. 'Coz that kinda stuff would actually act as a personality development training of sorts. But physical/sexual harassment is insane!

  2. Hi Shobhit,
    I completely agree with whatever you said. I was scarred in the mind after my ragging in college. I was a very confident guy in school thanks to my teachers and parents. After submitting myself to seniors who I dismissed as idiots, I got twisted in my mind and slowly forgeting my original self. It has taken me many years now to reclaim what I was and my parents have noticed this change and are wondering what it is that caused this decline in confidence and esteem. Some wounds are hard to heal and your first experiences outside home and as a man who is for himself will go a long way. I can assure you that the bottled up anger and frustration makes ame a more aggresssive man.

    Loved your views.



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