The ragging monster is alive and kicking in India
Another ragging incident. 22 year old management student Sanjay Pal Singh was hospitalized with “a psychotic disorder” because of ragging.
Inspite of a Supreme court ban in 2001, ragging continues in India. Its thriving here, even though the rest of the civilized world has abandoned it. Its thriving because it is accepted by society and even educated people! And it isn’t even an Indian concept. It came from the west, imported by the British. The British call it fagging, and the Americans call it hazing, but their society frowns upon it now. And laws against ragging in India don’t work because its considered harmless! Laws only work when society disapproves of something…unfortunately Indian society doesn’t show any signs of changing.
Shivam Vij explains it like this:
Last year at the height of some very unpleasant ragging at my elite college in Delhi, I met a geriatric woman at an elite club, who began defending ragging. “Freshers and seniors get to know each other,” she said. I wanted to tell her: “Ma’am, I want to know you better. Please take off your clothes.”
A little history
Ragging started off as far back as the 7-8th century A.D in Greece, in the sports arena, but spread to the uniformed services. Over the years, it reached college campuses. By the 18th century, it had spread to Europe, and then it spread to America. After WW1, fagging became more violent. And the British brought it with them to India. It was seen in the English public schools they established…and also in the army.
However inspite of ragging being alien to Indian culture, it not just survived after Independence, but actually thrived after the British left. Today, people might frown at youngsters eating burgers and wearing skimpy clothes (the influence of the so-called evil west!) but not at ragging, which is a criminal offence!
Why do people do it?
The same reason why people bully ofcourse! As it says here:
They may see it as a way of being popular, or making themselves look tough and in charge. Some bullies do it to get attention or things, or to make other people afraid of them. Others might be jealous of the person they are bullying. They may be being bullied themselves…
Why do Indians do it?
Well, we have always been a hierarchal society, and this makes people hesitate to complain…which gives a free hand to tormentors. And some feel that it could well be caste-based as incidents of ragging were seen to increase after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. Caste is just but one angle however. Resentment can be towards any group considered ‘below’ the bullies, and this could simply mean juniors! Hierarchical attitudes were already well entrenched in the Indian social fabric before the British arrived and this made ragging ‘acceptable.’ In fact, any sort of bullying by a ‘higher’ group is socially acceptable here…but I am sure the British had no idea what they were unleashing!!
Ragging, simply another name for bullying and harassment, but with a social sanction in India, also has another dimension to it here. The fear of punishment is absent. Students don’t complain until they have reached the limits of their physical and mental endurance, and even when they complain, their complaints are not taken seriously enough by the college authorities.
It is common to speak of ragging as a normal initiation rite freshers go through, but it actually encompasses a number of acts that are defined as crimes in the Indian penal code. Indeed, students know that many acts that would not be permissable in any other context suddenly become a little more acceptable if the term “ragging” is attached to it. What would otherwise be a crime can be condoned as, at the most, “going a little overboard.”
What will it take to change such attitudes? To start with, colleges should have a zero tolerance attitude towards any kind of coercion on campus, and cops should come down much harder on such crimes. Some kind of national ragging database would be perfect (with checks and balances, of course), and anyone who feels the urge to rag someone — or see someone naked against their will — should realise that it will probably result in the end of his academic career. People who rag should be treated like child-molesters — given the age and vulnerability of some victims, it really isn’t all that much different.