What is ragging all about? And what can you do about it?
On April 24 2014, the University Grants Commission (UGC) asked institutes to install electronic surveillance systems and alarm bells to curb instances of ragging, especially inside canteens, hostels and along college corridors and lawns. And it mandated surprise inspections to such spots that are conventionally used for ragging purposes. It also asked institutes to form anti-ragging squads, quick-response teams and identify students who generally create trouble at the beginning of the academic year itself.
Pick a College spoke to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a counselor and a director of Student Affairs to get an insight into the culture of ragging. The following questions deal with the concerns that students have about ragging when they begin their journey as undergraduates.
1. Where does one draw the line between an interaction and ragging?
Know the difference between an icebreaker session and an uncomfortable communication.
“If the person at the receiving end feels his or her personal space being infringed upon, and feels vulnerable, or experiences discomfort and distress, a significant boundary has been crossed—then a healthy interaction can become a traumatic experience," says Kamna Chhibber, Clinical Psychologist, Fortis Healthcare.
Dr Saurabh Mehrotra, Consultant Psychiatrist, Medanta Medicity, has a similar view. “Abuse in any form (physical/ verbal/emotional), humiliation, ridicule and insult make interactions unhealthy.”
2. What is a healthy way for juniors to get introduced to seniors?
A freshers’ party formally organised by the institute can help students feel at ease in the college and with their seniors.
“Activities designed as officially supervised orientation for juniors, where seniors interact with juniors, are desirable. Seminars, workshops and festival celebrations create a friendly atmosphere on campus,” says Dr Indira Bairy, Director of Student Affairs, Manipal University.
“Seniors should not engage with students who show signs of feeling uncomfortable with an interaction. They can be approached again later and asked for an introduction,” advises Dr Shikha Jain, Counselor, IIT-Roorkee.
3. What is the need for ragging? Is it the only way to break the ice between seniors and juniors?
Ragging in colleges is quite common or at least it used to be. The older generation thinks nothing of banter or brawl. They see it as harmless. But is it really as inconsequential as they believe it to be?
“Ragging has become a part of student culture, almost a rite of initiation into college life. Incidents fail to surprise us till something really drastic happens, something that shocks civil society,” opines Chibber.
Dr Bairy says: “Seniors want control over the lives of new students and hence resort to subduing them. Ragging is also part of a vicious cycle where those who have been ragged want to rag to vent their anger.”
Dr Mehrotra has a similar view, “Ragging is intended to be harmless, to make juniors less shy. But these are myths. Ragging in real life is a means of venting frustrations, prejudices and even sadistic impulses. It is a known fact that people are ragged on the grounds of caste, region, colour and status.”
4. Is ragging more severe in engineering colleges? Does staying in a hostel make one more susceptible to ragging?
Most media stories about extreme cases of ragging pertain to engineering colleges and hostels. Bollywood films like ‘3 Idiots’ support such reportage. Is it true that engineering students face the highest risk of being ragged?
“It’s highly unfortunate that some of the best
minds enter engineering and medical colleges and it is in these two streams
that cases of ragging are most prevalent,” says Dr Mehrotra.
“Ragging happens more in hostels because hostels are seen as ‘safe’ places for ragging and students stay there for the most part. Day scholars do not face the brunt as they head home after classes. In fact ragging mostly takes place at night,” he adds.
According to Dr Bairy, “In general, ragging is more prevalent in residential campuses and hostels. But measures taken by administrative authorities and wardens can eradicate ragging.”
5. How can a student deal with ragging? Should they approach authorities?
Despite measures taken by the authorities, it is vital to know what to do if you are ragged.
Bairy lists the authorities that one should approach in case such a mishap happens: First, call the student helpline number that is publicised on campus. Next, approach the anti-ragging squad, wardens and teachers.
Chibber believes that students should first stand up for themselves and refuse to do anything that degrades them as people. “A student must remain firm in the first instance when boundaries are crossed and not wait for things to escalate to take action. One must also be aware of the redressal system that operates in the institute. ”
She also suggests sharing the experience with friends to deal with the mental stress that comes with ragging. “Building a support system is a must. And students must not feel anxious, shy, scared or ashamed of talking about what happened and seeking help.”
6. Will speaking up invite instances of repeat offence from seniors or alienate the victim?
While Jain and Chibber think the outcome of speaking up cannot be predicted, they believe that students must always report cases of ragging as it strengthens them as individuals.
“Speaking up will not invite a repeat offence. In fact, not reporting the incident is likely to do so. Courage is likely to invoke fear in the seniors, particularly with the strict laws in place,” says Dr Mehrotra.
Bairy says reporting cases leads to the punishment of perpetrators and puts them in the right place without affecting the victim in any way.
7. Should cases of ragging deter students and parents from choosing a particular college?
It is important to note how the respective administrations deal with ragging cases. Ragging is not the attribute of an institution but depends on the quality of students studying in it, at a particular time. Even a premier institute could be tainted by a ragging case but this will not affect its position in the long run.
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