As India's colleges open their doors to new students these days, many of them face ragging. This abuse of newcomers sometimes takes on serious dimensions including physical attacks, at times even resulting in death.
A student facing the rest of his computer science class at an Indian university
For over ten years, Harsh Aggarwal and his dedicated band of volunteers have made it a point to visit colleges in Delhi and neighboring cities incognito during admission time to see if ragging persists.
Aggarwal is the national coordinator of the Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE), India’s foremost anti-ragging non-profit organization, working towards the elimination of ragging and promotion of more positive ways of interaction between seniors and new students in Indian universities.
"The problem of ragging is serious in Indian colleges," he told Deutsche Welle. "Especially in professional colleges, not so much in degree colleges. In degree colleges, where mostly day scholars study, ragging is milder in form. It is limited to dancing and singing, whereas in professional colleges it is much more severe. It involves serious physical abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse leading to hospitalization. And there are cases of students committing suicide or students dying because of ragging."
Students buying admission forms in New Delhi
Figures on the rise
According to the latest figures, the highest number of severe ragging cases in recent times was registered during the last 12 months, with 19 deaths and 4 cases of attempted suicide allegedly due to ragging.
The year also witnessed a marked increase in the number of ragging incidents involving girls, including 4 cases of death and 2 cases of attempted suicide by girl students.
Humiliation leading to suicide
The most shocking case this year was that of a 19-year-old first year student of Kolkata’s Institute of Pharmaceutical and Allied Health Sciences. During ragging he was asked by his seniors to dance, strip and smoke. When he refused, they slashed his hands with a blade and injected something into his body.
Later he tried to commit suicide at home by drinking pesticide but was rescued in time and hospitalized. Still traumatized by the ragging incident, he hung himself from the ceiling fan and died.
The increasing cases of ragging forced India’s Supreme Court in 2007 to direct educational institutions to register criminal cases against those indulging in ragging activities. Furthermore it also set up a committee to come up with strict recommendations to be followed by educational institutions.
These days, thousands of new students enter colleges and universities in India
Rajendra Prasad, principal of Ramjas College is a member of the committee. "I have submitted my report two weeks ago", he said. It contains a couple of steps to be taken: "The moment any complaint is received at the helpline, the complaint is forwarded to nine agencies simultaneously, so that nobody is able to suppress the complaint or pressurize the victim that you withdraw. All kind of nonsense was going on. But now, people are coming forward, and that is our biggest achievement. The issue is not being swept under the carpet any longer."
But ragging is deeply rooted in the Indian educational setup, especially in smaller cities. So far, only four states have enacted legislation to deal with it.
Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan