Ragging in universities is taking centrestage in the media these days inviting us to editorially discuss the matter for the second time in just forty days. A ten-day High Level Consultative Dialogue on Preventing Ragging and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Universities organised by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in collaboration with the Association of Commonwealth Universities too held recently at Galadari Hotel with academics and university administrators from India and Sri Lanka.
In fact university students are belittling their own struggles for their legitimate rights by staging demonstrations against reasonable action by the law enforcement authorities against the unwarranted actions of a few students. When seven students of the Kelaniya University were arrested last week over a ragging incident some of their colleagues took to the streets demanding the immediate release of the arrested students.
Earlier in March, seventeen senior students of the Allied Health Faculty of the University of Peradeniya were suspended from attending lectures for ragging. During the same period the academics at the Kelaniya University had suspended teaching activities in protest against on-going ragging at the university.
The students had been arrested last week by the police after a female student had complained to the police that she was severely ragged for wearing jeans against the “orders” of the senior students. One cannot believe that the female student had fabricated the allegation against the seniors to become the centre of a storm, after studying hard for several years and being selected to the university at a highly competitive examination. Therefore people might be pushed to think that the other struggles of the students too were of the same kind. Besides, it is shameless for the students to demonstrate against the arrest, after having physically as well as psychologically tortured a fellow student.
The pro-ragging students justify their rabid ragging activities by calling it a familiarization for freshers. How can a ban on jeans serve the familiarization? And also how can physically harming those who defy the “orders” of the seniors serve that purpose? Many students selected to the universities are not from the affluent families and therefore how can one say that the female student defied the orders out of arrogance. After all what is the right the seniors have to take charge of familiarization in universities? Who entrusted it to them?
During a media briefing that was held at the Kelaniya University on Sunday to clarify the situation at the University after the inhuman and vulgar ragging incidents and the arrest of students, University Vice Chancellor Prof. Sunanda Maddumabandara had told that eight students had left the university so far this year due to ragging and there could be more planning to leave or have already left without giving notice. What an unfortunate situation. How can one justify the ruining of the future of those eight students who left the university just because of the actions of a few psychopaths? This is not the first incident where freshers had given up university education or committed suicide due to ragging.
Prof. Maddumabandara had said that one obstacle in containing ragging was the hesitation on the part of the victims to complain and the difficulty in identifying the culprits even after such a complaint. However, it cannot be a secret for the student unions as to what is going on and who ragged whom. Therefore it is the responsibility of the student unions affiliated to so-called revolutionary political parties to expose the culprits, as to what is going on in universities in the name of familiarization which is not in fact familiarization. It is purely giving vent to their inhuman mindset and vulgarity in the guise of ragging or familiarization, since sexual and gender violence too have been a part of present-day ragging in universities.
Unless the student unions come forward to help eradicate this menace from the universities it is the duty of the people to further isolate the political parties that back these unions at future elections. The rule of law must be applied in the university premises as well just as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed at the High Level Consultative Dialogue.