Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shame on our educational system and our government - A first year student is brutally ragged to his death

The fact that Aman was brutally killed indicates the total failure of our educational system. Another girl, this time in Andhra Pradesh, a couple of days after the Aman murder incident made a suicide attempt on her life after being humiliated by her seniors.

These incidents are not going to stop. It happens every year and it will go on. Shameful reports of second year and senior students physically and brutally abusing freshers fill our media every year. Sometimes it goes to the extreme as in this case of Aman, a first year student in a medical college in Himachal Pradesh who has been beaten to his death by his seniors. When the media were naming the culprits they were being called Dr.X, Dr.Y and so on. In the first place these guys haven't completed their courses or haven't become doctors yet. Secondly these guys don't deserve to be called doctors because they don't understand the meaning and value of life.

What many of the perpetrators never know is the sensitiveness of the people being ragged. Some are hypersensitive. In Singapore I was told that the Government had to intervene and ban ragging from colleges after a number of students took their own lives not being able to tolerate the humiliation of ragging.

In my opinion here are some important reasons why ragging is being done.

1. Brutal physical or emotional ragging is done by seniors to vent their frustration rather than for pleasure or making juniors subservient to them. The excuse of getting respect from juniors or the fact that they were ragged is no reason to rag freshers.

2. This frustration is due to several reasons -
a) Lack of emotional needs - This could be love, caring, friendships in that order.
b) Lack of sexual pleasure fullfillment.
c) Not being able to study, or concentrate on studies or pass exams - During many of the ragging sessions juniors are asked to make projects, take down notes and what not for their seniors.
d) Problems from their families - economic, emotional.

3. The curriculum and syllabi which all need a major upgrades and constant updates. The entire course material needs to be of better quality. This may sound like a trivial point but I have seen school books in Singapore where the quality of the material and courseware is so good that even adults will be enticed to read and study them. Our production of good students need not necessarily be the outcome of our courseware.

4. Jealousy towards newcomers in whom the seniors see things that they (the seniors) are deprived of.

5. Racism too - People from one state venting their frustration on freshers who come from another state. However in the college wher my brother went to in Bangalore you could only be ragged by the seniors who come from the same state as you.

One wonders if the situation will change even if the culprits were punished.
In 1996, the Annamalai University's Raja Muthiah Medical College, Chidamabaram a similar dastardly act took the life of the only son of a Vice Chancellor. The crime was horrific where the body was mutilated severing head, torso, limbs and organs using surgical knives. The culprit who was initially arrested was later freed by the court. The same could also happen to the culprits of the most recent murder. So much for justice in our country.

In the light of ragging I have an interesting story for my next post. I am not sure if this is a myth but it was told by my friend in school while he was a resident of the Anna University campus, Chennai and while his father was serving as a Professor there. I have heard it from other people as well.

Watch out for the post.


Harsh said...

History of Ragging

- Harsh Agarwal

Substantial ink has been spent in discussing the incidents and ill-effects of ragging but we have hardly ever tried to go deeper to the roots of this savage phenomenon which is rapidly eroding our education system.

Ragging, Hazing, Fagging, Bullying, Pledging, Horse-playing etc. are different terms used in different parts of the world but each signifying the same old practice of welcoming the fresher in a barbaric manner. This phenomenon can be traced back to as early as 7th or 8th century A.D. In Greek culture, new entrants to the sport community were subjected to all kinds of humiliations and teasing to inculcate a team spirit in them. Gradually with the passage of time this technique was subjected to myriad modifications and was later adopted by the military forces, from there it finally entered in the education system.

Since its inception in the educational arena, ragging underwent several modifications before morphing into an organized form of campus violence. During the 18th century forming a student organization in colleges was very much in vogue particularly in the European countries. This concept was later adopted by the U.S. universities as well. In the period 1828-1845, several student organizations popped up in the U.S. campuses. These were named after Greek letters like Alpha, Phi, Beta, Kappa, Epsilon, Delta etc and were called as Greek Letter Organizations (GLO's) or Fraternities. The new entrants to these fraternities were known as Pledges and had to undergo an initiation process called pledging. During this time ragging (called as Hazing in west) existed in its rudimentary form and was merely a ritual to test the courage of the pledge.

The first ragging related death occurred in 1873 when a freshman from Cornell University fell into a gorge as a consequence of ragging.
Ragging underwent a massive transformation after World-War 1. It was during this time that it started to acquire its real brutal form. Soldiers returning from war re-entered the college and brought with them the technique of Hazing (ragging) they learned in military camp. These techniques were used to make individual fail as an individual and succeed as a team. This philosophy of team development continued to be used in different fraternities. Eventually when fewer military students entered college these techniques were passed onto others who did not understand their purpose or usage and ragging became a brutal and hazardous exercise. Gradually in the early 20th century ragging related violence started to escalate in the western countries.

In India the tradition of ragging was imported along with the English education. Though it existed in the Army and English public schools much before the country's independence, it became conspicuous only after independence. Ragging then meant seniors mocking and jesting at juniors. Till the late 60's ragging was never a serious problem in India as it was relatively in a much milder form, primarily because higher education was confined to some particular section of the society. Gradually as the higher education became more and more accessible to different communities, ragging became a soft weapon to settle the animosity between students of different castes, communities and religion, region, etc.

Deep influence of the media during the 80's made ragging much more brutal and violent in India. Soon ragging became a measuring rod to test the grit of the seniors. Many seniors, who were reluctant to rag their juniors, finally succumbed to peer pressure. It is still an important factor in Indian ragging.

During the early 90's rapid mushrooming of new private Engineering and Medical colleges led to several disastrous experiments with this old practice of ragging. It made Southern India a hub of this brutal activity. During the 90's ragging related suicides began to increase at a rapid rate.
In 1997 Tamil Nadu, which was one of the worst affected state, became the first province in India to bring legislation against ragging. In 2001, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India banned ragging throughout the country. It was now left to the college authorities to enforce this law. Gradually the daytime ragging in campus, which was comparatively a safer mode of interaction started to disappear while more threatening and virulent ragging in the hostels continues to thrive in most of the colleges.

We tend to forget that ragging is a western culture and is deleterious in a multi-ethnic and diverse society such as India. Even in the west ragging was always used as tool to take out vengeance between the Blacks and Whites. In India, a myth that ragging makes the fresher bold has always existed. This has given a passive social approbation to this cruel practice. As long as this exists ragging will never see its demise.

In its several years of existence ragging has done more harm than good. It has claimed lives of several thousand innocent students all across the world. Today, ragging no longer exists in its brutal form at places where it actually originated but is rapidly proliferating in the under-developed and developing nations of the world. Presently Sri Lanka is the worst affected country in the world. Has ragging reached its pinnacle or is the worst yet to come? How many more lives will it claim before our society wakes up? Perhaps only time shall answer these questions.

(Harsh Agarwal is a Co-founder of Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education, CURE, estd. 2001 www.noragging.com and a former consultant to Raghavan Committee on Ragging and can be reached at harsh.agarwal@noragging.com)

Subash S L said...

Hello Harsh,

Thank you for your article. As you have written if "Ragging has already been abolished" why are our universities and colleges not doing anything about it yet.

Humans are to evolve. Instead why be involved with activity that retards that. How many people are going to understant that. I was ragged but by being asked silly things instead of what goes on in the horrible world of ragging. But I never ragged anyone or never will. I adviced my brother to do the same even after he was ragged very harshly in Bangalore. I would advice my son the same i.e do not rag anyone even if you were.