I have not experienced extreme ragging therefore it is hard for me to imagine how life threatening and fear inducing it could be. Unfortunately ragging ranks high on the “right of passage” list of university experiences and has become the widely accepted form of socialization between the freshers and seniors. Ragging is a form of exerting undue power over another. The freshers are at the mercy of their seniors and they are forced to suck up to their seniors or face up to them. The subject gains spotlight when it takes a turn for the worse, for instance when a student at the University of Peradeniya was brutally ragged and is now confined to a hospital bed. His physical injuries will heal but as the Minister of Higher Education pointed out he remains shaken and traumatized by the ordeal. For once I agree with the Minister, who is generally prone to eat his words; although it is an isolated incident where ragging is used as a cover to get back to those students who defy the process and a lesson to others to fall in line.
University of Peradeniya is as infamous for its ragging as it is famous for its dental faculty. Recently a collective of past university students calling themselves 'victims of ragging' are trying to create a platform for the new generation to refrain from this harmful practice that causes more harm than good.
Ragging is huge in the arts faculty of many of the universities; it must be since the student union leaders are largely from the Arts faculty. "Not all student union leaders engage in extreme ragging that physically and mentally abuses the freshers but some take it to the extreme where they take advantage of their position," spokesperson of the anti-raggers’ collective U.S. Ekadeera opined.
He was a victim of a ragging incident that went too far and he was hospitalized with broken bones. He later filed a court case against his seniors and as a result has to give up his education. He is not the first and he shall certainly not be the last if ragging continues.
Explaining his ordeal Ekadeera said that his seniors beat him up and dumped him in a toilet pit, thankfully his colleagues found him before it was too late. His purpose of founding a collective was to create a space where victims could come together and overcome their mental ordeals while helping to prevent future cases of such incidents.
Another incident came to light from the University of Ruhuna. A young female student was forced to crawl and engage in physical training, despite having being diagnosed with a spinal cord injury. The diagnosis came while she was engaged in the compulsory physical training stint at the military academy, that every fresher was expected to undergo for the first time last year. It was hoped by many that this “Leadership Training” would instill discipline that would prevent cases of ragging.
Speaking to the media at a press conference convened by the Ministry of Higher Education the mother of the victim said that her daughter pleaded to spare her since she was recovering from a spinal cord injury but they thought that she was using it as a ploy to get away.
"My daughter did as they demanded, because they forced her to do these activities. thereafter she fell unconscious and unable to move her limbs. They then landed her in hospital," victim Wathsala Kumuduni's mother revealed tearfully.
Tthe Ministry had finally found a trump card over the Student Unions' that they wanted banished.
I questioned the convener of the Inter University Students' Federation (IUSF), which is the most powerful university student’s body of the country, Sanjeewa Bandara on the incident. He claimed that the student took ill and was admitted to hospital even before the ragging had begun.
Persons for and against ragging continue to pin the blame on one another. But the fact of the matter is that students who fall victim will carry the mental scars while the ones that went through the mill unhurt believe it a part of life that is fun and worth preserving.
You can't find answers that will make all parties happy. It seems unlikely that our future generations might not hear or know the fear of ragging. Ragging is an underground activity that is largely unregulated so when the Anti Raggers' collective revealed that they had credible proof to say that some of the freshers at the University of Peradeniya had to put in a few hours at a massage parlor, it became a cause for concern and one that needed to be looked into urgently.
It is not just ragging that takes place within universities it also happens outside of the structure and not too far ago there was an incident where a bride groom died on his wedding day, due to a cruel prank that went too far, indicating that these hazing rituals amongst peer groups is a sociological problem, that goes beyond young adulthood.
The most hackneyed topic at any university's debating club would be on ragging and still it remains a hot topic time after time. It has thrived on the fact that a considerable percentage of the students believe it to be part of the learning curve. "Who knows what lies in society this way we get a taste of the evils to come," was the justification of a student looking forward to his university life.
It's hard for persons who have not experienced it to pick a side in support or opposition. Although I feel it doesn't take a life altering incident to realize that violence in any form should not be tolerated, regardless of its sugar coating as being a rite of passage. This is the violence that makes anti raggers believe that terrorism is once again finding its way to the society that stands celebrating its defeat.