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Ragging a Menace
|by Dr. Asha Choubey|
When I was invited to write an article on ragging, the thought that came instantly to my mind was: Ragging? No, I don’t want to talk about this. I would actually not even think of it. Such a horrific irony it is! Ragging is trauma...ragging is terror... it’s tears... it’s all that is negative. And the irony is that it’s present in its ugliest form in higher education, a field which should in fact, be pleasure, knowledge, information, solidarity, generosity, magnanimity and all that is positive. And belonging from the field of higher education I would rather not talk about negativity. Can I then avoid the issue of ragging, belonging as I do from education? Can I shrug my shoulders and say ragging... oh a lot of negativity I would not need to bother myself with? I regret to say I cannot ignore the issue. Belonging as I do from education, I have to give it particular attention. It is one area where it should never enter but it is one area which it infests most horribly.
I also remember one of my colleagues saying with an air of importance, “ Ragging is a necessary evil, so just forget it, it will not go.” His words kept haunting even as I tried to frame this article. Ragging is a necessary evil... so there are three questions to explore: What is ragging? Is it necessary? Is it evil?
Let us answer the first question first. Ragging today is associated with tears, depression, loneliness, humiliation, torture, fear, and unfortunately suicide and death too. It is all that is negative. If this be so, do we still need to explore if it is necessary? Can the negative be necessary at all? And do we still have any doubts if it’s evil or not? However, not all would agree with me on this; some might say, it is only a form of initiation. Let’s see what initiation we are talking about. Ragging has a history and it is believed that it started many many years ago, around 6-7 cent. B.C. in Greece. The new entrants in a game were ragged by the veterans with a view to make them aware of what difficulties lie ahead, and at the same time break the ice.
Now, we all know what rigours a sportsperson has to face and we would all agree that some kind of initiation must certainly help. From sports, this ritual as they call it, spread to the military. Again, we would all agree that like sports, military life is also quite tough and some kind of training/initiation at the outset would be acceptable if not necessary. So, till that time it was tolerated if not welcomed. It was then known as fazing as it is known even today in the Americas. Now the issue is how this practice could enter the area of education. At the end of World War I the war soldiers who returned, enrolled into colleges again. Since they had faced fazing, they let it out on their juniors in the colleges. And they found themselves enjoying the pseudo-supremacy when the juniors actually started fearing them.
Who doesn’t like feeling powerful?
These soldier-students also felt powerful when the juniors out of fear would obey all their orders. This is about the how... but the more pertinent question here would be: Why? What difficulties, rigours, are expected in an environ of education? Do we actually need to prepare a college student pursuing education for the tough life ahead? What tough life are we talking about? Education is supposed to make life smooth. It is supposed to promise a decrease in difficulties... and from this it would follow that any hindrance in its way would be an increase in problems instead of being a preparation for problems. It is obvious then, that ragging was not a need for education.
Let us now come to the second question: Is it necessary?
What do we understand by the term necessary? Its dictionary meaning would be : absolutely essential. And what is absolutely essential, must be indispensable; in the absence of which it would not be possible to survive. Is ragging essential/indispensable to education? We would do well to trace the history of education because all that is essential has to be present since the onset of education. Information, learners, teachers, a medium for communication of information and a platform from where this communication could be made possible; all of these have a history as old as that of education so we have all reasons to believe that all these are essential for education to take place. And if ragging were essential too, there would certainly be traces of it in that period. Happily, we all know that ragging was unheard of in those times. There was absolute trust between the teacher and the taught, there was immense respect for the seniors and the peers, there was affection, solidarity and a sense of belonging but ragging was completely unheard of. That answers our second question, ragging is not necessary; education was happening even before ragging came into being.
Now, the third question: Is ragging evil?
What is evil? Again let us examine the dictionary meaning: morally bad or wrong; wicked, causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful; characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous; bad or blameworthy by report; infamous; characterized by anger or spite; malicious. In short all that is negative in human nature is evil; all that is traumatic; all that is tortuous; all that brings stress; all that leads to depression; all that is against goodness and Godliness is evil. Ragging involves on one hand the victims and on the other the oppressors, so we shall have to see is it evil for both the parties or for one, or for none. Those who rag derive some kind of pleasure out of it, so they might think it is not evil. How can pleasure be evil, they might think. I am afraid, they shall have to analyse the nature of this pleasure that ragging gives to them. What pleasure is this which causes immense pain to others. I have only one name for it i.e., sadistic. You derive pleasure out of the suffering of others, and your pleasure is directly proportionate to the intensity of their pain. You rag your juniors and they, out of fear, do as you direct; you feel powerful.
Is it real power? Power is that which is used for protection and defence of the weaker ones, so power is used for the weak and not on the weak ones. That which is used on the weaker one is tyranny, and I am sure we all hate tyrants. Power is to be used to give power not to make others helpless and to add to their miseries. So, the pleasure that the oppressors get cannot be a human pleasure as it caters to one’s animal instincts. Hence, it is evil for those who rag. For the poor victims of ragging, it is evil all the way, causing much trauma, tears, pain, humiliation and even at its mildest best: embarrassment. Moreover, the victims start giving in to evil; which itself is evil; we should all must fight evil, not surrender to it. Hence, ragging is evil for both, its practitioners as well as the victims.
Now, I would also like to touch upon the issue of ragging being a kind of rite of passage/initiation. I do not understand how initiation can be anything but ice-breaking. Ragging can form ice, it can kill the victim’s chances of opening up. As far as initiation is concerned one cannot perform if one does not have confidence. Confidence is a pre-requisite to success in any field, and ragging crushes confidence; sometimes for good. What kind of initiation is this that crushes the very personality of a person? What preparation for the next step are you planning for a junior whom you render incapable to walk even? How will they ever be able to touch those heights when you crippled them so early. You butcher the dreams of those bubbling juniors and then you claim you did that because you wanted to break the ice!
There are so many interesting methods of icebreaking, where there is only love and affection and respect involved. The seniors could very well sit together with the juniors and play dumb charades or antakshari or poker. There is no money involved if at all there is any investment it is mutual respect only. Respect is commanded and what better to way command respect than extend help and support to freshers when they need it the most. On their entry into a new environ the students are apprehensive of what might be in store, if at that time the seniors come to their help and be their anchors, the bond that is built will be everlasting. Ragging forms ice instead of breaking it, so shun ragging and work towards friendship and solidarity.
Related: Ragging The Curse Machine by Dr. Shubha Tiwari
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