Personal Reflections

The raging ragging debate

Originally posted at Youthpad.

Once upon a time there was a kid who was studying in an Uttarakhand college. Unfortunately, despite the fairy tale beginning to this blog post, his life did not follow typical fairy tale trajectory. The guy I am talking about is Aman Kachroo, whose death due to ragging sparked off a chain of events which has culminated in two students being expelled this week from Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College. What that one tragic incident in a small college did was blow to smithereens the excuse that ragging helps in bonding with seniors.

Even I agree and support fruitful interaction with seniors. As long as it is harmless, it is okay. I’m sure that most college seniors who’re ragging don’t go in with the mindset to kill or grievously injure someone. I hope everyone has that much humanity left in them. The problem starts when, intoxicated with the feeling of being in power, a college student(s) who is doing the ragging forgets the point where his actions have crossed a line. Specifically picking up Aman Kachroo’s case, this is what I remember reading in a newspaper report. He was asked to give an introduction in shudh Hindi – now this itself is innocuous, harmless and may I say, a popular form of ragging. I wouldn’t call this ragging per se; it’s the sort of interaction that I’m sure everyone is OK with. Now, Aman’s family had been living in Tanzania for a considerable amount of time and the kid didn’t know much of Hindi. One thing lead to another and in the end he died due to injuries inflicted upon him. I do not know whether this is true or not, but that’s what a newspaper report said.

Post this, the Supreme Court issued directives that ragging in all its forms must be stopped forthwith. Protests have been raised that this is too harsh a measure, that benign forms of interaction should be allowed. Try to understand this issue from the court’s point of view. Can you provide an empirical, unambiguous definition of what ‘safe’ or ‘benign’ ragging is? How do define some action as ‘going too far’? This is further complicated by the fact that ‘damage’ could be both physical and mental. You can have a shot at this – and you’ll realize that this is extremely difficult to do. You could say, in a sense, that ragging extremes are a bit similar to road rage. Both arise from a need to show-off who is in a position of power. And it brings a sea change in a person who otherwise might be quite sociable in any other setting. Typical Dr Jekyll turning into Mr Hyde scenario.

Between the two extremes which the court had at hand – of allowing ragging to go on with the possibility of further such incidents happening and of a total ban – the court decided to choose the latter. I support that decision even though I admit the consequence will be that harmless fresher-senior bonding will be impacted badly. Besides, even if a definition of ‘extreme’ ragging could be reached it would be punitive measure instead of a preventive measure. Won’t do a shitload of good to someone who’s dead or injured. Probably, putting in preventive measures was also on of the points the court considered when passing this directive.

Coming to the controversial decision taken by Kirori Mal College in expelling the accused students. Frankly, they had no choice. Court orders are quite firm that action needs to be taken in case any such incident is reported. In case action isn’t taken, the complainant could have taken college authorities to court over this issue. Maybe the sentence was a bit harsh; the college principal admits he was trying to set an example but he was well within his rights to do so.

Extreme ragging incidents remain under-reported. College authorities will be strict for a few weeks to make sure the court order is implemented; indeed, most freshers are already reporting that hardly any ragging it taking place. Eventually though, colleges will relax monitoring and that is the time when further ‘incidents’ might happen. So the need is also to sensitize seniors to be aware of what the limits are. Also, the need for interactions with seniors is definitely there. Otherwise it will be hard for newcomers to find their way around a place. College authorities themselves should take the initiative to hold sessions where such interactions can take place where anything ‘sensible’ is allowed. You could have counsellors around to ensure that things don’t get out of hand, and in case any fresher wants to back out of any bit then s/he can do so.

Even if a single potential death or serious injury is prevented by the Supreme Court’s order, I think it is worth it.

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