“On the first day at the hostel we were requested to come to a room wearing sarongs. The second year students who entered the room thereafter asked us to remove our sarongs. The sarongs were kept aside and in order to drown the noise made by the students blaring music was played”.
The above quote is not an excerpt from a novel, but the beginning of a story of an undergraduate from a university in Sri Lanka. This is a topic which many shun to narrate. Even mentioning the subjects drives fear into an individual.This subject is ragging.
A student who had been subject to ragging at the Peradeniya University was warded at the hospital last week. There are many who justify ragging of freshers and in some instances those ragged end up by receiving treatment at hospitals. A considerable percentage of students hate the early stages of the university life due to ragging.
This is the true story of a student who had endured inhuman ragging at a Sri Lankan University. This type of ragging is not common in all Universities. In Moratuwa and some other universities ragging is not so inhuman and does not warrant reporting. The strategies adopted by the senior students in ragging differ from university to university. This issue should be addressed in a manner which doesn’t dissuade students from following University education, but to put an end to this merciless and inhuman treatment of freshers by seniors.
Then we were asked to strip naked and bathe with dirty water brought in buckets. These were referred to as Hostel Buckets. The ragging ends with that, but we are forced to wear a white shirt and black pants for two weeks without washing them
“It is the custom to bring us, clad in sarongs, in the night to a room in the hostel. On entering the room we are forced to remove the sarongs. Later it became mandatory that we came naked to this room. The seniors as well as students in our group begin examining our genitals and force us to masturbate in their presence. Refusal means you are subjected to severe assaulting. There is no fan in this room and students sweat throughout these menial acts. By the time this ragging is over it is early morning. Then we are forced to march towards the girls’ hostels and forced to accompany them to the lecture halls. For three months we were subjected to this inhuman treatment. Then we were asked to strip naked and bathe with dirty water brought in buckets. These were referred to as Hostel Buckets. The ragging ends with that, but we are forced to wear a white shirt and black pants for two weeks without washing them. At the end of the two weeks the shirt and the black pants had become so dirty that students looked more like animals. Then they are grouped with the girls in a different place at the University and after removing our dirty clothes and clad only in our under pants, buckets full of water are then thrown at us and we are forced to wear our trousers without wearing underpants.
Then we are forced to march towards the girls’ hostels and forced to accompany them to the lecture halls
“The following day the second year students entertain us at a party called a social, where little food is served. Thereafter students of our batch have to give them a party in return. We have to pool funds and give them a party with special liquor and good food,” said the student who was ragged concluding the horrifying episode he endured as a fresher in a reputed University in Sri Lanka.
The letter says it all!
The following are excerpts of a letter sent to the Vice Chancellor by a group of students enrolled at the Institute of Indigenous Medicine.
Ragging in the canteen
01. All new students have to be at the canteen by 7 am before they attend lectures during the first year. Regardless whether they have their breakfast or not the lectures commence at 8.00 a.m. Partaking of meals in other places has been prohibited by the seniors. Those who are not present at the canteen are subject to various punishments given by the seniors.
02. New students are subject to scoldings at the canteen where filthy words are used.
03. New students are taught poems and stories by the seniors who use obscene language for these purposes.
04. Those who fail to learn these obscene poems and stories are subject to the punishment called ‘manoputuwa’ where those punished must crawl on the floor.
05. Various things like soft drinks and sand are mixed with the breakfast and lunch and freshers are forced to eat them.
06. Leftovers from meals, which contain saliva, are given to the freshers by the seniors. Some of these leftovers are fish bones and drumsticks shale.
07. New students who refuse to obey these commands are punished.
08. The lecturer who has close ties with the university’s administration does not visit the canteen to check the ragging despite receiving many complaints from new students.
Ragging in the hostel
01. It is compulsory to register in the hostel though they reside near the Institute of Indigenous Medicine in Rajagiriya. This is implemented by the seniors.
02. Force not to pay the government fees to the hostel.
03. Not giving the permission to sleep till following day 2.00 a.m. after waking up at 5.00 a.m. in the morning.
04. Giving the mentally, physically and sexually punishments by the seniors after new students coming from the lectures.
05. It is prohibited to put on any dress till they go to sleep.
06. During the period of six months of ragging, they have been prohibited to do their studies.
07. Introducion of liquor and drugs to new students.
08. Drugs mix with drinks and arrange to give them to new female students to drink in the hostel.
A female student who underwent a similar or worst experience at a university narrated the frustration she endured as a campus student.
“After our Advanced Level Examination we entered university with high hopes, but soon it became a place of unpleasantness. We were subject to inhuman ragging. We were compelled to bow our heads and greet the second years. Any refusal to do so would make us receive a slap or be forced to kneel on sand or pebbles. This is followed by ‘Dasakala Abhisehkaya’ which is done inside a room where the walls are decorated with drawings of male and female figures. These activities are initiated by seniors who possess an abnormal mentality. They insist that we perform some acts with the male figures on the walls. They call us by filthy (unprintable) names. This is followed by the dance called ‘Binkunda’ and erecting of tents. During ragging we are prohibited to wear brassieres. Senior female students examine us. We are marched towards the place where the male students are present. This is the most horrifying incident I have ever experienced and this forced many undergraduates to leave the campus,” she said.
These stories underscore what sort of a life awaits all those who enter universities in Sri Lanka. The majority of undergraduates do not approve ragging. Ragging is activated by a few and the victims later take the leadership when their turn comes to ragging freshers. We spoke to several undergraduates who had left their universities recently, but many refused to give us permission to make their comments public.
This is followed by ‘Dasakala Abhisehkaya’ which is done inside a room where the walls are decorated with drawings of male and female figures. These activities are initiated by seniors who possess an abnormal mentality
Sanka Rambukwella completed his university education and graduated last year. He was ready to reveal his identity and speak openly regarding this matter.
Rambukwella said that he entered university in 2011. Having heard about his selection to the University, the next thing that had struck his mind was the issue regarding ragging, which has become so established in our society. Ragging isn’t welcome in public, but it taking place, inside academic institutes, is unavoidable. “After entering University I was able to witness ragging under two categories; one mental and the other physical. It is the female students who are subjected to mental ragging in large numbers. The ragging begins with the seniors using decent language. Then they start scolding us using foul language. The freshers are subject to much teasing and harassment. They are assaulted and forced to kneel down. Then they force us to appear nude and perform other inhuman activities. First year male students don’t have the opportunity to wear the clothes of their choice during the so called ‘Social’ period,” Rambukwella said.
This type of ragging varies with each university. It is not true that all the second year students are involved in ragging. It is only a few who lead these ragging sessions. The majority of the student community keeps aloof from this indecent behavior. There is also a belief that certain political groups are involved in ragging. As a university graduate he denies being involved in ragging and says that he had seen many engaged in these activities. However he says that these sessions were not patronized by any party. He further says that those who engage in ragging always justify achieving their objectives. Those who engage in ragging say that these activities help build a good understanding among students. They say that ragging makes freshers ‘Batch Fit’. It is noted that freshers are grouped together only during the first year. By the times they are in the second, third and fourth years of their university lives there is no close alliance among undergraduates as the race for lectures, classes and notes receives all the attention. The argument that ‘Batch Fit’ fosters brotherhood does not hold weight any more. He reiterated that ragging is the work of disgruntled individuals who self-gratify in engaging in this type of activity done with a low mentality. The present world doesn’t approve this type of tribal concept.
First year male students don’t have the opportunity to wear the clothes of their choice during the so called ‘Social’ period
Rambukwella opined that it is a group comprising a few mentally disturbed persons who continue with ragging. And this has been proven beyond doubt through the incident involving the undergraduate of Peradeniya University who was admitted to the hospital last week. At one university a student was forced to go down a flight of steps using his knees. The unbearable pain and suffering made him depressed. There was an incident reported recently where plastic tubes were inserted to the rectums of four students. Despite ragging not taking place on a large scale in universities there are sporadic incidents that cause mental suffering to students.
An act was passed in parliament to stop ragging and inhuman activities in academic institutes. The description prohibiting such activities within academic institutes is included in clause 20 of the act passed in 1998. However, despite this act being in force, ragging and harassing of students continue at academic institutes, unabated.
The present society through the use of new technology has revealed how ragging still takes place at academic institutes. However these incidents go uninvestigated and the culprits aren’t prosecuted. There have been occasions when undergraduates have been subject to punishment in instances where discipline has been breached. But have seniors been subject to disciplinary action for ragging freshers? The university community should speak strongly against ragging in public forums with the view of ending this inhuman treatment meted out to students.
“No one to stand up for those who are ragged”
Malinga Prasad, a graduate who has voiced his disapproval against ragging, says that Student Unions and the university administration is protecting criminals.This is what he has to say.
“The Vice Chancellor of Peradeniya University tried to conceal some incidents that happened recently at the campus. Most members in the university administration wish to hide these ragging incidents and they try to show that universities are functioning properly.
Student’s Unions don’t see the need to control this situation. The General Students Councils of Colombo, Peradeniya, Kelaniya and Jayewardenepura appeared for the parties who initiated the ragging. They did not stand up for the victims who were ragged. The inter-university Students Council too took to the streets in protest with the motive of protecting the right to education.
Most members in the university administration wish to hide these ragging incidents and they try to show that universities are functioning properly
They are also associated with ragging at the universities. On the other hand some freshers who were ragged consider the exercise to be a novel experience. Recently a student was stripped naked, tied to a tree and bathed with mud on his birthday. This student had later posted a note stating that this was the best way in which he has celebrated his birthday,” said Prasad.