Devilish ‘Welcoming’: Campus cruelty continues as institutions turn blind eye

When new students enter the gate, they are of course received with a welcoming smile. But behind the frontage of ‘welcoming’ these students to university, ragging, in actuality, is a notorious practice wherein some groups of senior students get an excuse to harass their junior counterparts. And make them easy targets to satiate their own perverse sadistic pleasures.

Apart from sustaining grievous physical injuries, those students who succumb to ragging either develop a fear psychosis that haunts them throughout their lives, or worse, quit their university education even before it begins.

Similar was the case with 19-year-old Aswathy, a nursing student from Kerala. She was subjected to cruel ragging in a nursing college at Gulbarga in Karnataka. She has been hospitalized in a critical condition.

The student, a native of Edappal, was allegedly ragged by senior Malayali students.

The student was forced to drink toilet cleaning lotions. Doctors said the food pipe of the girl has been burnt. Though an emergency surgery needs to be done on a patient, it has become impossible as her internal organs have been burnt. Hence, the surgery could be conducted only after at least six weeks.

The parents of the girl alleged that the Gulbarga police were not willing to accept their complaint and took a stance favouring the college management. Following this, the girl was shifted to Kozhikode.

A relative of the girl said she was subjected to cruel harassment in the hostel on earlier occasions too.

What went wrong? Why did we fail to eradicate this menace or, at least, curb it to a satisfactory level? The reason is we have not properly understood that ragging cannot be cured merely by making it a cognizable criminal offence.

The acts of indiscipline and misbehaviour on the part of the undergraduates must primarily be dealt with within the university and by exercise of the disciplinary authority of the teachers over the students and of the management of the university over the teachers and students. Students should not ordinarily be subjected to police action unless it be unavoidable. The faith in the teachers for the purpose of maintaining discipline should be restored and the responsibility fixed by emphasising the same.

In India, there have been two landmark judgments prohibiting ragging. These are: (1). Ragging of New-comers in Thiruvananthapuram Government Engineering College vs. State of Kerala and (2). Vishwa Jagriti Mission through President vs. Central Government through Cabinet Secretary.

The second judgment is particularly significant as the Supreme Court, while exercising its jurisdiction under the constitution of India, has laid down broad guidelines for universities and educational institutes to prevent ragging. Very briefly, these guidelines are:

(1) Ragging can be stopped by creating awareness amongst the students, teachers and parents that it is a reprehensible act which does no good to any one and by simultaneously generating an atmosphere of discipline by sending a clear message that no act of ragging shall be tolerated and any act of ragging shall not go unnoticed and unpunished.

(2) A high-powered Anti-ragging movement should be initiated by the university right from the time of advertisement for admissions. The prospectus, the form for admission issued to students must clearly mention that ragging is banned in the University and any one indulging in ragging will be punished appropriately which punishment may include expulsion from the university, suspension from the university or classes for a limited period or fine with a public apology. The present legislation governing ragging should also be brought to the notice of the students/parents seeking admissions.

(3) The application form for admission/enrolment shall have a printed undertaking to be filled up and signed by the candidate to the effect that he/ she is aware of the university’s approach towards ragging and the punishments to which he or she shall be liable if found guilty of ragging. A similar undertaking shall be obtained from the parent/guardian of the applicant.

The universities which are introducing such a system for the first time should ensure undertakings being obtained from the students and their parents/guardians already studying in the universities before the commencement of the next educational year/session,

(4) A printed leaflet detailing when and to whom one has to turn for information, help and guidance for various purposes, keeping in view the needs of new entrants in the university, along with the addresses and telephone numbers of such persons, should be given to new-comers at the time of admissions so that the new-comers need not look up to the seniors for help in such matters and feel indebted to or obliged by them.

(5) The management and the teaching staff should interact with new-comers and take them in confidence by apprising them of their rights as well as obligation to fight against ragging and to generate confidence in their mind that any instance of ragging to which they are subjected to, or which comes in their knowledge should forthwith be brought to university authorities’ knowledge. The management must assure that complaints will be promptly dealt with while protecting the complainants’ from any harassment by perpetrators of ragging. It would be better if the head of the university or a person high in authority addresses meetings of teachers, parents and students collectively or in groups in this behalf.

(6) At the commencement of the academic session, the university should constitute a proctorial committee consisting of senior faculty members and hostel authorities like wardens and a few responsible senior students:-

(a) to keep a continuous watch and vigil over ragging so as to prevent its occurrence and recurrence,

(b) to promptly deal with the incidents of ragging brought to its notice and summarily punish the guilty either by itself or by putting-forth its finding/recommendation/suggestions before the authority competent to take decision.

(c) All vulnerable locations shall be identified and specially watched.

(7) The university community and the students in particular must be made aware of dehumanising effect of ragging inherent in its perversity. Posters, notice boards and sign-boards-wherever necessary, may be used for the purpose.

(8) Failure to prevent ragging will be construed as an act of negligence in maintaining discipline in the university on the part of the management, and the persons in authority of the university. Similar responsibility shall be liable to be fixed on hostel wardens and superintendents.

(9) The hostels/accommodations where new-comers are accommodated shall be carefully guarded, if necessary by posting security personnel, and placed in charge of a warden/superintendent who should himself/herself reside thereat, and wherein the entry of seniors and outsiders shall be prohibited after specified hour of night and before except under the permission of the person in charge. Entry at other times may also be regulated.

(10) If the individuals committing or abetting ragging are not identified collective punishment could be resorted to act as a deterrent punishment and to ensure collective pressure on the potential raggers.

(11) If a university fails to curb ragging, the UGC may consider stoppage of financial assistance to such a university till such time as it achieves the same.

(12) The Universities shall at a reasonable time before the commencement of an academic year, and also at such frequent intervals thereafter, devise such positive and constructive activities to be arranged by involving the students generally so that the seniors and juniors, and the existing students and the new-comers, interact with each other in a healthy manner. They will thus develop a friendly relationship so as to behave like members of a family in the university. Seniors or juniors should be encouraged to exhibit their talents in such events so as to shed their complexes.

(13) Ragging, if it becomes unmanageable or amounts to a cognizable offence, the same may be reported to the police.

For any student who works doggedly day and night to secure admission into a university, ragging can be his or her worst nightmare come true.