As schools and colleges prepare to open, millions of students in India are waiting to step into the exciting world of college life for the first time. As freshers, just out of school, and with the newfound freedom of youth, they are looking forward to joining the various types of higher education institutions across the country.
Whether it be the fragrance of fresh books, or the happiness of new clothes and new gadgets, or the anticipation of new friends, college life comes with a rosy tint for the young students of India.
Yet when the they walk through the gates of their dream institutions, the rose-tinted glasses often come off as they are faced with the reality of Indian colleges. While college life is the start of an exciting learning journey, there is a darker side to this life-changing experience – the practice of ragging, which is prevalent in even the best of colleges in the country today.
The prevalence of this vile practice is no secret, but there has been a normalisation of it over the decades, as a result of which it has yet to be banned. Even where there is a ban, it is often not implemented strictly.
The practice of ragging is so deeply embedded in the fabric of Indian colleges that it is passed off as a necessary part of orientation for new students and is often disguised as an “introduction” to their college seniors and the quirks of college life. It is often seen as a way of doing away with the inherent shyness and lack of confidence among freshers.
However, the reality of ragging is the perverse pleasures of bullying that students have to face from seniors, as part of vicious cycle, which often leaves a permanent scar on their psyche. While fun and games are okay, ragging is often done under the guise of bantering, which crosses its limits. Freshers are often forced to do undignified and potentially self-harming activities by their seniors, which sometimes leads to a tragic end.
It was noted in 2017 that colleges saw a 70% increase in the number of ragging cases. This was despite a rising number of colleges banning ragging at their campuses and establishing anti-ragging cells. The problem with ragging is that it needs to be challenged first by those who are its victims. Ragging will not go away until and unless freshers stand up to bullying seniors and draw a line between fun and harassment. Eradication of ragging in India will need the collective efforts of freshers, teachers and senior students, as well as from the parents and relatives of the students. Until that happens, ragging will continue in some way or the other.