Multiple pieces of legislation and regulations prohibiting ragging on campuses have failed to end the dehumanising ordeals junior students are subjected to by their sadistic seniors. Nearly three months after a 17-year-old boy died due to ragging in West Bengal’s Jadavpur University, a second-year undergraduate student of the PSG College of Technology in Tamil Nadu has been left brutalised, physically and mentally, for refusing to yield to monetary extortion by his seniors. Both States were among the earliest to enact legislation banning ragging. That students undergo such traumatic experiences despite civil society being rudely awakened by spine-chilling cases of brutalisation and even the murder of victims of ragging, exposes the gaps in the system that allow a vicious cycle where victims one year become perpetrators the next. From bullying and harassing freshers to ensure subservience to seniors, acts of ragging have taken perverse and cruel forms, including through sexual abuse, intended to dehumanise victims. An act of indiscipline has evolved into one that involves elements of criminality. While unlike earlier, ragging is no longer a given on campuses, it is evident that victims are not just the freshers and the harassment extends beyond the initial months of a new academic year, as seen above.
The Supreme Court-appointed R.K. Raghavan Committee had captured the causes, and suggested actionable remedies, in its 2007 report, ‘The Menace of Ragging in Educational Institutions and Measures to Curb It’. The panel rightly categorised ragging as a form of “psychopathic behaviour and a reflection of deviant personalities”. In 1999, a University Grants Commission (UGC) Committee had recommended a “Prohibition, Prevention and Punishment” approach to curb ragging. Yet, as the Raghavan Committee pointed out, many State laws only seek to prohibit, and not prevent, ragging. In its words, “while prevention must lead to prohibition, the reverse need not be true.” Despite ‘The UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions 2009’, except for formalities such as conducting freshers’ parties, mandating undertakings from students and parents against indulging in ragging, and putting up ‘no-ragging’ notices, the stakeholders have done little to prevent it. Institutions must create an encouraging atmosphere where teachers and hostel wardens, and not parents living in a distant place, are the first point of contact for victims. There must be greater accountability by educational institutions to prevent ragging. As the Raghavan panel recommended, regulatory authorities must ensure a ragging-free campus. This has a direct bearing on the maintenance of academic standards in individual institutions. Governments too must be earnest in implementing regulations, failing which campuses would not be safe for students.