he death of a girl student by suicide due to ragging by seniors should not have come as a surprise to anybody familiar with the environment existing in higher educational institutes in the state. It is noteworthy that Orissa stands third at the national level in cases of reported ragging. News reports have quoted other students claiming that ragging is ‘rampant’ and because no attention is paid to such activities by the administration, senior students are getting emboldened in their acts. Ragging is an ill that has been plaguing educational institutions for a long time. There are numerous cases of ragging that end up in news headlines every year with many resulting in a young life cut short. Most institutions claim that their environment is ‘ragging free’. That was the claim by BJB Autonomous College where Ruchika Mohanty, a first year Plus 3 student of History ended her life, blaming three senior girl students for ragging and mental harassment. While no arrests have been made so far, some students have reportedly absconded from the hostel. An internal enquiry by the college authorities is underway along with the police investigation.
Sadly, in most cases of ragging, the college authorities refuse to take responsibility and, in fact, are sometimes seen to be hostile towards the investigation. This itself is the biggest roadblock in the way of tackling this issue which is among the top causes of deaths among young students in hostels. Acceptance of the situation and taking responsibility is the first step towards course correction. Denial only emboldens and protects the culprits and puts the victims in a more vulnerable position. It gives a message to the students that the institution will go out of its way to protect its reputation even if that means shielding the perpetrators at the cost of the victim. This attitude of the management also discourages students undergoing physical or mental harassment to come forward with their complaints before the authorities. They feel their concerns will go unheard and unaddressed while revealing the nature of their complaints to the bullies, making their position even more precarious. This fear psychosis seems to help in encouraging the continuation of the vicious cycle of ragging, throwing up more brutal cases with every passing day.
In cases of death by suicide, parents are also left questioning where they went wrong and how they could have prevented the death of their child. In the case of Ruchika, she had not openly shared her troubles with her family. The family will always be left with the feeling that they could have done more. In some cases, kids do not confide due to fear of retribution by the bullies and in other cases they decide to bear through in order to avoid putting undue stress on their families.
A big obstruction in the way of removing ragging culture from educational institutions is its acceptance as a rite of passage in our society. Students are often told ragging is part of college life, that it makes one tough or is a way of introduction to seniors in the institution. Students start expecting and in fact brace themselves for harassment when they step into institutions of higher education, especially in hostels. This makes them accept their sad fate more easily leading to too many students tolerating abuse for way too long before it’s too late for some. For ragging to stop, it needs to be acknowledged and branded as the evil that it is – a justification for bullies to vent their frustration on victims. It must not be brushed aside as a necessary step on the way to education.
In the recent case of Ruchika as well as many other innocent victims, their harassment is seen and accepted by other seniors and batchmates. Bullies are always fewer in number than victims and onlookers. If an atmosphere of trust and assurance is created by the administration of each institution, ragging cases would get reported and action taken on time. Instead of a handful of bullies running around wreaking havoc on the lives of students, they would be named, shamed and cornered. This needs a concerted effort. The government must show sincerity by introducing stricter laws, society must stop accepting ragging as a part of student life and institutions must stop defending the indefensible and protect the majority of students who come to study and create better lives for themselves.