Sunday, March 29, 2009
Photo: The hopes and dreams of the parents of Aman Kachru (also spelled Kachroo) vanish in smoke.
Death by ragging
In the wake of the death of medical student Aman Kachroo due to ragging, Nonika Singh explores reasons behind the social problem, while V. Eshwar Anand advocates the need for a stringent Central law to check this practice
Parents of 19-year-old Aman Kachroo, who died after he was severely beaten up by his intoxicated seniors
Parents of 19-year-old Aman Kachroo, who died after he was severely beaten up by his intoxicated seniors
A young boy is beaten to death. Another one is belted and slapped incessantly. A young girl is made to sit naked all day in a tub of freezing water. Many are stripped and forced to dance or walk barefoot for miles.
These are not jail inmates being tortured but young students who have entered educational institutions as freshers. The treatment being meted out to them is called ragging by society and ‘some harmless fun’ by their seniors.
What started as a harmless ritual has taken sadistic proportions, where fun is sought in utmost acts of depravity and abuse qualifies ragging.
Ragging, an innocuous mode of interaction between seniors and juniors, has acquired fatal ramifications today in the wake of medical student Aman Kachroo’s death .
Though Aman, who was ‘ragged to death" by his seniors, isn’t the first victim of this menace. In 2005 Amit Sahay, an NIT student at Jalandhar, threw himself before a running train, holding his seniors responsible for his death in the suicide note. His desperate act had provoked Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE) to mark October 11 as ‘no ragging day’ .
Amit’s is not the only suicide attributed to ragging. Between 2001 and 2007, there were 31 more such cases.
Freshers weren’t the only victims. In Andhra Pradesh, mother of a ragging victim, disturbed by the sexual abuse of her son, killed herself.
Ragging is not limited to beatings, as even rapes and sexual harassment have been committed under the guise of ragging. In Bilaspur engineering college, a girl was not only raped but her tormentors even made a CD of the act. Another girl student of nursing college of School of Medical Sciences, Kottayam, was gang-raped by her seniors in October 2005 on the pretext of ragging. Two of the accused were sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous punishment, while six were acquitted by a special court recently.
In 2007, CURE analysed 64 ragging complaints and found that over 60 per cent of these were related to physical ragging, while 20 per cent were sexual in nature.
Dr Kushal Banerjee, founder of SAVE (Society Against Violence in Education), calls ragging an organised crime. A Bill, tabled in 2005 to prevent ragging, is yet to become a law. But it will need more than a law to change the mindset or deter those who indulge in ragging and care two hoots for the law. Even as a shocked nation was still coming to terms with Aman’s death, there came the news of suicide bid by a girl from Andhra Pradesh, forced to dance naked by her seniors as well as another ragging incident in Himachal at Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla.
Because of India’s failure recognise ragging as a social problem, both Central and state governments have failed to adopt harsh measures required to check ragging.
Dr Rajendar Kachroo, Aman’s father, questions the authorities’ indifference, "If there was a law to prevent ragging, why wasn’t it put into action?"
But can law alone suffice? After all, nobody can police thousands of colleges and hundreds of universities, except the institutions themselves, admits Dr Kachroo.
A collective change in the societal mindset maybe the only answer, which has to begin with parental guidance. Institutions may now take an undertaking from parents that their children will not indulge in ragging.
Parmod Sharma, coordinator, Yuvsatta, calls this a step in the right direction but he claims, "Value education at the school-level is the only answer."
Though the Raghavan committee made a pertinent observation that it is more rampant in medical colleges, but argues Dr Banerjee, "Give any institution a hostel and ragging pervades it." Almost 63 per cent ragging incidents reportedly take place in hostels.
So what makes students indulge in inhuman acts in the name of ragging? Dr Monica Singh, a clinical psychologist, says, "So preoccupied are we with academic excellence that we have ignored the emotional quotient of our young generation."
Do the victims, too, have a social profile? The Raghvan committee found that most of them were either from the rural areas or socially backward communities. Even girl students were as much the perpetrators as victims. Dr Singh says that often the non-assertive introverts are at the receiving end, while Dr Banerjee deems, "The more one resists, the greater are the chances of ragging turning severe."
Students, who have been at the receiving end, feel the trick lies in lying low. Anyone who stands out by virtue of strength or weakness is a likely target.
Does ragging have a soft side? Tushar Sharma, a student of Symbiosis Law College, Pune, thinks so and says it is harmless fun.
But Mohit Garg of SAVE is aghast: "It is precisely this harmless song-and-dance image of ragging, fuelled by movies and media, that has allowed ragging to continue unchecked and made even parents of the victims treat it lightly."
Dr Kachroo agrees that he did not take his son seriously when Aman complained of ragging. Though he may never forgive himself for doing so, he is determined that others do not meet the same fate. He has started ‘Aman movement’ intended to instil zero tolerance against ragging. Mohit interjects: "But don’t expect the victims to complain. That has and will always backfire. In South India two brothers, who had complained against ragging, were repeatedly failed by the institution."
Dr Banerjee confesses that he has to often face resistance from colleges and universities in Kolkata. Whenever he approaches them for conducting seminars on ragging, the standard refrain is, "Ragging does not happen in our institution."
Mohit suggests proactive measures like surprise checks, anti-ragging committees. Cutting off financial aid as the Supreme Court has ruled, too, he thinks is a perfect tool to make educational institutions, especially private ones, accountable. And above all he quips, "Right now, ragging sustains for it is considered hep. Let us make it unfashionable. Get celebrities to endorse anti-ragging campaigns and spread the word that raggers are sick minds."
Dr Singh suggests,"Equip children with coping skills. They must know their right to privacy and that no one has the right to infringe upon it." NCERT now plans to introduce human rights as a subject in schools.
Clearly, to counter the menace of ragging a multi-pronged approach is required and is easier said than done. SAVE’s anti-ragging cell initiative so far has succeeded only in Jadhavpur University. But Dr Kachroo says that an overnight miracle is not possible because we are an amnesiac nation which forgets as easily as we are outraged. But for the sake of Aman and many like and before him let us hope that ragging becomes history. — NS
by V. Eshwar Anand
The horrific death of Aman Kachroo due to ragging by his seniors at Dr Rajendra Prasad Govt Medical College at Tanda in Kangra has shaken the nation’s conscience. It has also brought to the fore the callousness and negligence of the authorities at various levels — the Centre, the state and the institution concerned — in checking the menace.
The fact that the college authorities had turned a deaf ear to Aman’s complaints of torture and harassment typifies the total breakdown of the institutional machinery. Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings and guidelines, there was a complete collapse of authority and responsibility in the command structure.
Barely a week after Aman’s death, a girl student of the Bapatla Engineering College in Andhra Pradesh attempted suicide after she was forced to dance in the nude by her seniors. This shows that ragging is not confined to one state or region but is widespread in the country. The Supreme Court has rightly asked the authorities concerned in Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.
The sickening regularity with which this abominable and despicable practice continues shows the brazen infraction of the apex court’s directions and poor enforcement of the law. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and West Bengal have enacted laws banning ragging. (Himachal Pradesh has now realised the need for an ordinance making ragging a non-bailable offence).
The Supreme Court had appointed an expert committee headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan to examine the problem. Significantly, while comparing the existing legislation in the six states as mentioned, the committee found that except the one in Chhattisgarh, no other state law is intended to prevent ragging. Interestingly, it said though prohibition and prevention seem to serve the same intended purpose, it is important to understand the subtle difference between the two.
Prevention implies anticipating the problem of ragging, forestalling its occurrence and taking precautionary measures to make it difficult for ragging to take place. Consequently, the law, which is preventive in approach would necessarily create conditions that anticipate, forestall and check ragging, all of which help in the law becoming a facilitator in enforcing the prohibition of ragging.
However, while prevention must lead to prohibition, the reverse need not be true. According to the committee, prohibition is intended to restrain the act and check the menace. The subtle difference lies in the fact that while prohibition of ragging is a “top-down approach” where the law can be cryptic, any law on prevention must be more participative with a “bottom-up approach” laying down the detailed mechanism of preventive measures and instrumentalities.
After the committee submitted its voluminous report, the apex court asked regulatory bodies like the Medical Council of India, the Dental Council of India, the Bar Council of India, the All-India Council of Technical Education and the University Grants Commission to frame guidelines banning ragging in the institutions under their control. Predictably, the response has been lackadaisical. It is only now that we hear of some right noises like fund-cut from bodies like the UGC.
In its interim ruling on May 16, 2007, the apex court had ruled that for every incident of ragging where the victim or his/her parents are not satisfied with the educational institution’s arrangements, a first information report (FIR) must be filed without exception by the institutional authorities with the local police. Any failure on the part of the institutional authority or negligence or deliberate delay in lodging the FIR shall be construed to be “an act of culpable negligence”, it ruled.
In its final ruling on February 11, 2009, the apex court had asked the institutions to strictly enforce the ban on ragging. However, no state has implemented even the basic recommendations. If some institutions had tried to make a beginning, they have left the initiative midway.
The Raghavan Committee had directed every institution to set up anti-ragging committees and squads. The committees at the institutional level, headed by the institutional head, should consist of representatives from civil and police administration, local media, NGOs involved in youth activities, faculty members, parents, students from the freshers’ category and seniors and non-teaching staff. However, most affiliated colleges have failed to do so. The squads were to conduct raids on hostels and other ragging hot spots. Barring a few initiatives, no major attempt has been made to form such committees.
Similarly, the recommendation for district–level committees headed by the Deputy Commissioner/ District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police and mentoring cells in each college to oversee and involve senior students as mentors for the freshers have also not been implemented.
Though the judiciary can administer justice, the responsibility to implement the Supreme Court directives squarely rests with the state governments and the college authorities. Ragging should be made an explicit penal offence under the Indian Penal Code.
There is no need for the states to frame separate statutes. Let the Centre frame a tough law for tackling ragging in all states and Union Territories on priority. The offence of ragging should be made cognisable and non-bailable, with a sentence of at least 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. The punishment must be exemplary for the law to act as a deterrent.
Unfortunately, the Centre has done precious little to enact legislation on ragging. The UPA government did not demonstrate the political will needed to resolve the problem. On May 6, 2005, the Prevention of Ragging in Colleges and Institutions Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha. However, it is yet to see the light of the day. The new government that comes to power after the ensuing Lok Sabha elections should enact a law banning ragging.
The Raghavan Committee has its own limitations. Devoid of statutory status, it could only lay down broad guidelines, with the Supreme Court’s mandate, and it is for the enforcement authorities at the state, district and institutional level to implement them.
There is also the need for expeditious trial of ragging cases by fast track courts. The usual delays of the criminal justice system should not be allowed to operate here. Speedy justice by fast track courts can infuse fear into malcontents in the campuses who have no fear of the law at present. — VEA
Sanjay Pal Singh, 22, student in Lucknow.
Kachru died due to injuries during ragging, says probe report; blames Suresh Sankhyan, school principal
SHIMLA - The magisterial inquiry into the death of Aman Kachru, a first-year student of the Rajendra Prasad Medical College at Tanda town of Himachal Pradesh, has concluded that the student died due to ragging, according to an official statement Saturday.
‘Aman Kachru succumbed to his injuries caused during the course of ragging,’ the statement said.
Aman died March 8 after he was beaten up allegedly by four final-year students of his medical college as ‘ragging’.
Detailing the sequence of events that took place between March 6 and March 8, the report said many first-year students, including Kachru, were subjected to intense physical ragging in the early hours March 7. However, the incident of ragging only came to the notice of college authorities after a phone call was received by the health minister March 8.
‘Kachru collapsed and died due to injuries which the post-mortem report has linked to the incident of ragging,’ said the report.
The report also said that there was no recorded complaint about ragging in the college by Kachru or any of his relatives prior to this incident.
According to the report, about 10 instances or complaints of ragging and acts of indiscipline had been reported in the college since 2001 but none of the complaints drew any disciplinary action.
‘All these complaints were handled in a casual manner by college authorities and not a single instance showed any effective step or punitive action taken to curb the menace,’ it said.
The report held college principal Suresh Sankhyan, who resigned from the post after the ragging incident, responsible for the lapses.
The report has been submitted to the state’s principal secretary (health), the principal secretary (education) and the director general of police for action.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
How US failed to deal with ragging
29 Mar 2009, 0252 hrs IST, Hank Nuwer
India’s national disgrace with ragging is more common in many industrial countries than even journalists realize.
Japan has vicious sumo wrestler initiations, one newcomer beaten to death by three older wrestlers not long ago. Beatings similar to ragging recently have resulted in killings in the Philippines, Indonesia and the United States.
In the latter three countries ragging is called hazing, the term apparently taken from the old American West for the practice of controlling stock animals. The word ‘hazing’ was later appropriated in the Wild West for the ridicule and rough jokes forced on newcomers called ‘greenhorns.’
Unfortunately, while awareness of hazing in the US media has never been higher, deaths from fraternity and, to a much lesser degree, sorority hazing have continued unabated for 30 years.
The first male fraternity man to die was the son of a former Civil War general at Cornell University in 1873. America has had at least one hazing death — and sometimes many deaths — every year from 1970 to 2009, according to my research.
These pledges or so-called ‘associate members’ die mainly from alcohol poisoning and beatings, but sometimes they die in bizarre ways, including burning to death, drowning, choking on forced substances and getting hit by drunk drivers.
Worse, with a few exceptions, educational programmes to address hazing in American secondary schools before college are mainly non-existent or hastily planned only after an incident occurs.
While high school students do not often die from beatings, they do endure pummelling, paddling, and worse, sexual abuse ending in rectal tearing from objects such as pens and brooms inserted by their gleeful, sadistic peers. Two football players from a small New Mexico town pleaded guilty in recent days to sodomizing a so-called ‘rookie’ teammate.
These high-school hazers take inspiration from American professional athletes who delight in tormenting, humiliating and savagely beating rookies — many of these incidents being treated as humorous and part of the game by US sportswriters.
Moreover, the hazing frenzy in North America is not limited to the US. Canada’s junior hockey programme has seen newcomers subject to sexual abuse, and one rookie quit McGill University’s football programme amid claims he was sexually hazed.
And beatings and sexual abuse during initiations in prestigious South African secondary academies have only recently sparked parents and concerned citizens to begin campaigns similar to India’s anti-ragging efforts to force school administrators to ban all such so-called ‘welcoming’ activities.
India’s attempts to impose a lifetime ban on those caught ragging is admirable (though likely to have educators mired in appeals and litigation), but if bans in the US are any indication, they are doomed to failure. Hazing used to be practiced out in the open in the US, but when perpetrators faced expulsion from school and fraternity, plus misdemeanor or felony hazing charges, they took the practice underground.
Beatings continued in secrecy, particularly in African-American and Latino groups that admire warrior ability to endure pain and sacrifice. Coerced alcohol initiations among international, national and local fraternities and sororities not only escalated but they evolved into creative games. This month a young sorority woman pleaded guilty to giving a fraternity pledge at Utah State University a fatal administering of booze during a games session. Supposedly it was a ‘reward’ for the pledge to be hazed by women instead of fraternity brothers for one night.
Is there anything that can be done about practices such as ragging and hazing other than throwing one’s hands up in disgust and outrage?
I think there is. Having written and studied about hazing since 1975, after a hazing death occurred at the Nevada University where I attended graduate school, i believe these are positive developments in the US:
National and international fraternities and sororities themselves have come down hard on hazers, expelling individual and individual chapters caught violating rules.
National organizations such as HazingPrevention.org and Stophazing.org provide educational programmes, as do risk management corporations such as the Human Equation which provides online anti-hazing educational courses.
Criminal laws gradually have been tightened state by state, mainly because the parents of dead victims have lobbied hard for felony hazing charges in states like Florida and California. Civil litigation (including awards of US$14 million) also serves as a deterrent — at least to the elders who are university administrators or fraternity officials.
But in the end, it is going to take a paradigm shift where young people themselves begin to universally condemn hazing before true reform can be expected to become the reality.
And even if a decrease in ragging/hazing does occur due to toughened national laws in India and the US and elsewhere, i have no doubt hazing will crop up again among students sometime in the future.
As i have written in my books, Wrongs of Passage and the Hazing Reader, hazing and ragging are indeed a weed in the Garden of Academe. Stamp it out in one quadrangle and it flares up again in the next. More than a weed, hazing and ragging are a true scourge, allowing us to see in our young people the kind of viciousness that erupted in the Americans holding pens for prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib.
Only when our young people gain a respect for human rights will these vicious human rites truly disappear. I pray they do disappear, but my research demonstrates that it will not disappear altogether in my lifetime, or in the lifetime of anyone reading this commentary.
And that is a sad commentary on human affairs indeed.
Hank Nuwer is a professor at Indiana University (retired from IUPUI: now with Franklin College) in the US and has written four books on hazing.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Raj Singh Chaudhary, Ayesha Mohan, Deepak Dobriyal; Director: Anurag Kashyap;
Read the Mayur review and except:
All in all, Gulaal impresses mainly because of its raw portrayal of the Rajputana movement and the life in a college campus, especially regarding elections."
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Candlelight CeremonyHundreds attend candlelight vigils held for victim of hazing IANS Published: March 15, 2009, 23:05 New Delhi/Tanda: Hundreds of people marched and held candlelight vigils in New Delhi and Himachal Pradesh's Tanda town on Saturday evening to demand justice for Aman Kachru, a medical student who died after an incident of hazing that got out of control. Emotions ran high as relatives and friends of Aman, 19, and their hundreds of supporters marched from the Jantar Mantar observatory near Connaught Place on the Parliament Street in the capital and on the college campus and within the Himachal town. "I am thankful to everyone present here for their support. The movement for justice will continue not only for Aman, but also for other victims of ragging," said an overwhelmed Rajender Kachru, Aman's father, in Delhi. Aman died on March 8 after he was beaten up in the name of hazing, allegedly by four final-year students of his medical college in Tanda. Police said he died of wounds to his head and other parts of his body. Rajender Kachru said he met Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium in the morning. "He [Subramanium] assured me that he will be filing a petition in the Supreme Court for Aman's case to be moved in the fast-track mode, and that this case will serve as an exemplary one for future cases of ragging," Kachru said. Aman, whose family originally hails from Jammu and Kashmir but is now settled in Gurgaon near Delhi, was a brilliant student, family members said. The four senior students involved in the incident have been arrested and booked for murder charges. The Himachal government has ordered a magisterial probe. Neelam Katara, who fought hard for justice after her son Nitish was murdered, also participated in the protest march in Delhi. She said: "We can't get anywhere by keeping quiet. Ragging should be given zero tolerance. There should be implementation of laws, and people must feel scared to commit a crime like ragging. This will happen only if it is deemed and considered a crime." The protesters also demanded the enforcement of existing laws and passing of an anti-hazing law. Pooja, a 22-year-old mass communication student, said in Delhi: "Sadly this is not a stray case. Cases of students committing suicide fearing ragging are all well known. The government must act." Meanwhile, a team of the Medical Council of India is visiting the medical college this week to inquire about the incident and the steps taken by college authorities to check hazing.
Published: March 15, 2009, 23:05
New Delhi/Tanda: Hundreds of people marched and held candlelight vigils in New Delhi and Himachal Pradesh's Tanda town on Saturday evening to demand justice for Aman Kachru, a medical student who died after an incident of hazing that got out of control.
Emotions ran high as relatives and friends of Aman, 19, and their hundreds of supporters marched from the Jantar Mantar observatory near Connaught Place on the Parliament Street in the capital and on the college campus and within the Himachal town.
"I am thankful to everyone present here for their support. The movement for justice will continue not only for Aman, but also for other victims of ragging," said an overwhelmed Rajender Kachru, Aman's father, in Delhi.
Aman died on March 8 after he was beaten up in the name of hazing, allegedly by four final-year students of his medical college in Tanda. Police said he died of wounds to his head and other parts of his body.
Rajender Kachru said he met Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium in the morning.
"He [Subramanium] assured me that he will be filing a petition in the Supreme Court for Aman's case to be moved in the fast-track mode, and that this case will serve as an exemplary one for future cases of ragging," Kachru said.
Aman, whose family originally hails from Jammu and Kashmir but is now settled in Gurgaon near Delhi, was a brilliant student, family members said.
The four senior students involved in the incident have been arrested and booked for murder charges.
The Himachal government has ordered a magisterial probe.
Neelam Katara, who fought hard for justice after her son Nitish was murdered, also participated in the protest march in Delhi.
She said: "We can't get anywhere by keeping quiet. Ragging should be given zero tolerance. There should be implementation of laws, and people must feel scared to commit a crime like ragging. This will happen only if it is deemed and considered a crime."
The protesters also demanded the enforcement of existing laws and passing of an anti-hazing law.
Pooja, a 22-year-old mass communication student, said in Delhi: "Sadly this is not a stray case. Cases of students committing suicide fearing ragging are all well known. The government must act."
Meanwhile, a team of the Medical Council of India is visiting the medical college this week to inquire about the incident and the steps taken by college authorities to check hazing.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court-appointed RK Raghavan anti-ragging committee on Wednesday severely criticised higher education regulatory bodies
like UGC and Medical Council of India for not taking punitive action against institutes where ragging has been taking place.
At a meeting which was also attended by Rajendra Kachru, father of Aman Kachru who died in Himachal Pradesh recently due to ragging, the committee also discussed a report by Himachal Pradesh government on the incident. But Raghavan was unhappy. He wanted regulatory bodies to take immediate action. "We have not seen regulatory bodies taking punitive action against institutions. We told them that we want to see punitive action against institutions which have not implemented the anti-ragging provisions," Raghavan said.
He said punitive action could include curtailing grants to the institutes and withdrawing their recognition. The Supreme Court has also said that regulatory bodies could withdraw grants to institutes for not taking anti-ragging measures.
Rajendra Kachru suggested that the government start a national call centre for providing assistance to students who face ragging. "The suggestion is feasible. We are considering it and follow up action would be taken. Detailed modalities will be worked out," Raghavan said.
The committee also discussed the possibility of starting a dedicated cadre of wardens from this academic session in higher educational institutions. It asked UGC to provide funds to institutes for the purpose. The Pharmacy Council of India informed it that regulations would be finalised in April to be implemented in institutions offering courses in pharmacy. The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) also said that it would take immediate step to investigate cases of ragging through expert committees.
Published March 26, 2009 2008-09
Author: Shivam Vij
Aman Kachroo is not the first teen to die of ragging. But there is one curious first: this time the death has not led to any ‘public debate’.
This time the defenders of ragging are silent. Who knows, maybe some of them have changed their views and are now lighting candles at Jantar Mantar. There are no TV debates calling ragging fun. This time no one is arguing that a murder case should not be used to defame the socially productive ‘tradition’ of ragging. This time nobody is asking how boys will become men unless they are ragged, and nobody is calling the victims sissies.
What has changed? Have the chickens come home to roost? DPS, Gurgaon, Kashmiri Pandit — have the defenders shut up because the victim was a ‘person like us’? Is that all it needed, the life of a metro-bred boy rather than a small-town loser? Has the debate, that should have been settled with the Supreme Court’s 2001 ban, finally been settled 8 years and two dozen deaths later?
It sounds crude but it’s true: Aman Kachroo was lucky to be murdered than forced to commit suicide like most others. Had he committed suicide, the world would have been blaming him rather than his seniors. Nine out of 10 ragging suicides are by freshers who hang themselves from the ceiling fan of their hostel room, rarely leaving a suicide note. In all these cases, the victim is blamed. Must be depression. Exams? Relationship? Family discord? But since Aman was literally lynched to death, the standard template can’t be used this time.
Ragging continues because society at large wants it to continue despite legal injunctures. In an essay where he recounts ragging in Delhi University, Amitav Ghosh writes, “There were nights when we slept in drainpipes around Pandara Park rather than go back to college to face our seniors.” The rest of the essay convinces you that had it not been for ragging he wouldn’t have become the writer that he is!
That’s the manner in which selective amnesia is applied. Such mythmaking is then reflected in TV debates, newspaper features, and in the portrayal of ragging in films such as Munnabhai MBBS. The images you get to see are not of young bodies hanging from fans, eyes bulging and tongues popping out, but those of day-scholars singing and dancing in the canteen.
The most important arena of legitimising ragging is the oral passing-on of stories of parents to children, from alumni to students. A practice that teaches you to submit, to be subjugated and humiliated rather than to refuse orders becomes a ritual.
And so it is that when a student commits suicide, the first response of many is that if hundreds of other students in their same hostel didn’t commit suicide, why did this one? The ensuing victim-blaming makes sure ragging survives. The media’s focus on ragging ‘cases’ rather than the everyday goings-on in hostels also makes sure that the cases are seen as exceptions. The student who drops out, or becomes mentally unstable, or is ostracised by his/her hostel community for complaining are not highlighted. Even the family and peers begin stereotyping them as ‘shy’ and ‘timid’.
In 2002, Anoop Kumar committed suicide in a Lucknow college because his parents won’t let him drop out and return home to Kanpur. He had told his parents that he couldn’t even tell them what he was being subjected to. It was the shame of sexual abuse. It’s amazing that a society that does not approve of homosexuality looks the other way at sexual ragging. His parents regretted their stubbornness just as Aman’s parents regretted not taking their sons protestations seriously.
The regret of Aman’s parents is just as well the regret of the defenders. For the first time, contempt notices have been issued to principals and the University Grants Commission is pretending to wake up. The evidence is so strong that the four seniors could make history by being the first to be convicted of ragging death. Most of all, when a new government comes to power, it will hopefully look into the Raghavan Committee’s 50 recommendations and, at the very least, amend the Indian Penal Code to make ragging an offence.
(An edited, shorter version of this article by me appeared this past Sunday in the Hindustan Times.)
Monday, March 23, 2009
Published by: Noor Khan
Published: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 at 13:39 IST
New Delhi, Mar 22 : Himachal Pradesh government will set up a trust in memory of Aman Kachroo to increase awareness about the evils of ragging, which claimed the life of the young medical student at an institute in the hill state.
The 'Aman Kachru Memorial Trust' will raise awareness about the menance and educate the student community to adopt "zero tolerance" to ragging, state Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said.
The trust, to be set up with a corpus fund of Rs 50 lakh, will act as a "strong deterrent against ragging activities" in educational institutions in the state, an official statement here quoted him as saying.
Nineteen-year-old Kachroo, a student of Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda in Kangra district died allegedly due to thrashing by seniors on March 8.
"Civil liberty activists, legal luminaries, celebrities and social and political activists will be actively associated with the trust to eradicate ragging from the state and provide a free and healthy environment to freshers in educational institutions," Dhumal said.
The cabinet has approved the setting up of trust and all legal and other formalities will be completed in a time-bound manner, he added.
The cabinet has already given its nod to a new anti-ragging ordinance, the Chief Minister noted.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Student harassment is on the rise as more schools go private
The hazing death of a 19-year-old Indian student earlier this month at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College in India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh has sent shock waves across the country. Aman Satya Kachru, a so-called quota student at the school, the son of highly qualified parents, died March 8 of a brain hemorrhage triggered by torture by four senior fellow students.
With Kachru's parents accusing his college of trying to hush up the incident, the youth’s death has raised questions about extreme hazing, called ragging in India, which goes on unchecked in professional schools. Just weeks before, on February 11, the Supreme Court ordered all universities to follow guidelines from India’s Medical and Bar Councils and the University Grants Commission on ragging and that college personnel read regulations to all students at the time of admission.
According to the rules, students could be suspended and police were to be informed to begin criminal investigations. If schools sought to shield errant students, they were open to losing grants in aid, the committee said. But despite that, little is being done on campuses across the country. In fact Kachru’s college has been notorious for ragging, to the extent that even senior doctors say they dread being posted there. No anti-ragging laws are in place in the Himachal Pradesh state government, which supervises the Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College. A 1992 ordinance to deal with the problem has faded into oblivion because it wasn’t converted into law by state governments that have come into power.
It isn’t just northern India. The malaise is deep-rooted in the entire country and has ruined countless careers, injured thousands and killed many. Scores have been sexually exploited. A few months ago, two students in the south of the country committed suicide after becoming victims of violent ragging. K. Harika, an engineering student at Osmania University hanged herself in Hyderabad and S Harish Kumar died at his home in Kurnool, three months after he had swallowed acid over persistent ragging and humiliation by senior students. He was made to clean toilets and was paraded naked, he wrote in his suicide note.
There are many such horror stories. Last year, in a case that dominated the front pages, a student at IMT-Ghaziabad – a management school in India’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh – tried for 68 days simply to register a complaint against three senior students who had been ragging him for months. The hapless student finally had to knock at the Prime Minister’s Office because police refused to register his complaint. The youth had apparently been forced by upperclassmen to undress after which they threw lighted matchsticks at his private parts. The local police finally registered a complaint but only after the PMO's intervention.
Education analysts say that with higher education increasingly privatized, academic institutions have been experiencing increasing ragging-related excesses. In 2007 for instance, 42 cases of physical injury and 10 deaths were reported across the country. The practice continued across the country in 2008. Last year, as many as 70 cases of ragging, nine of them suicides, were reported. Overall, 30 deaths have been recorded over the last seven years, with many youngsters required to be admitted to mental hospitals.
The problem of ragging in India, say experts, is brushed aside as a "sociological" one. Education authorities say it reveals a feudal mindset that goes back to the British Raj – of seniors who feel the need to "dominate" their juniors by abusing them. This is amply demonstrated in Kachru’s case. He came into the school through a quota system for minorities, thus making him a target for intimidation from socially higher-ranking seniors with a colonial mindset.
"Ragging," says sociology professor Veena Deb, "can only be checked by creating awareness among students, teachers and parents. There should be an atmosphere of discipline and an unambiguous message ought to relayed to the offenders that their misdemeanors will not go unnoticed or unpunished. There has to be zero tolerance on the issue."
The punishment, Deb continued, can take the form of withholding scholarships or other benefits from erring students or even expulsion. As for the recalcitrant colleges, their funding ought to be stopped or they may be disaffiliated till they rectify the situation.
In fact more and more analysts believe the blame needs to be pinned laid at the institution’s door. Kachru, for instance, was killed on the premises of his college. Before his death, he and 13 of his classmates had filed written complaints with authorities, who employed no punitive measures against the errant students. The college simply brushed the matter under the carpet for fear of its reputation getting sullied, observers say.
Shivam Vij, editor, www.stopragging.org, recounts in an online article a case at the National Institute of Technology (Allahabad) in 1990. He describes how a session of "mass ragging" -- which involved beating freshmen black and blue -- prompted one to escape by jumping from the window. He broke his neck and died subsequently.
"I see ragging simply as a systemized form of abuse and exploitation," Vij wrote. "And the price of not obeying the seniors can range from ostracism to violent and/or sexual retribution."
The Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE), a registered, non-profit, voluntary organization, advocates that the public and authorities work towards putting an end to the violations as well. However, sporadic measures by voluntary groups are only a part of the answer. Ragging is not perceived as a serious human rights issue. Until it is, such initiatives can at best only serve a supplementary role, authorities say. The primary thrust, they say, must come from the academic institutes, the parents and the students themselves. Not to mention the Indian government which should strengthen its law enforcement mechanisms in such a way that in future no serious case of ragging goes unchecked or unpunished.
Expel, deny admission to students guilty of ragging: UGC
Mar 22nd, 2009 | By Sindh Today | Category: India
New Delhi, Mar 22 (ANI): The University Grants Commission (UGC) has recommended debarring of students guilty of ragging a fellow student from getting admission in educational institutes for life.
‘The regulations will be discussed at the meeting of 17 different councils, including the Medical Council of India (MCI), the AICTE and the state councils, next month. The regulations will be implemented after being approved by the councils, which are monitoring higher education in the country,’ UGC Chairman Professor Sukhadeo Thorat said in New Delhi on Sunday.
Apart from expelling students guilty of the offence from their institutes and denying them admission at any other place, the UGC draft regulations also provides for cancellation and rustication of students for a period from one to four semesters.
The commission is also likely to implement the rule of asking for written undertakings from the students and the parents while seeking admission, which would mention that they know the law on ragging and would abide by the same.
The admission application would also consider the report on the behavioural pattern of the applicant.
If an institution fails to follow the provisions of regulation, the affiliating university can withdraw its recognition. (ANI)
Saturday, March 21, 2009
New ragging case: Medical student beaten up in HP college
21 Mar 2009, 0148 hrs IST, TNN
SHIMLA: A first-year medical student was beaten up by two interns at a medical college in Shimla on Thursday night, only hours before the Himachal Pradesh government issued an ordinance to deal with ragging following the shocking death of Amann Kachroo, also a first-year student, at the Tanda Medical College.
The fresh case of ragging was reported from Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla. Acting fast, the disciplinary committee of the college met on Friday morning and decided to expel the two interns — Nikhil Verma and Sushant Sharma — from the hostel and suspend them for six months.
Ironically, only a day before, the staff and students of IGMC had held a condolence meeting for Amann. The students were counselled by senior staff on the ills of ragging at the meeting.
According to sources, Vivek was accosted by Nikhil and Sushant, who were allegedly drunk, about 10 pm on Thursday. They stopped the first-year student and bashed him up, even as Vivek pleaded with them to spare him.
The college tried to pass off the incident as "manhandling''. IGMC principal Surender Kashyap said after the incident, Vivek, accompanied by other students, complained to the hostel warden, who intervened and defused the situation.
Asked if the police were informed, Kashyap said as the warden was told about the incident and the situation controlled immediately, he felt it was not necessary to report the matter to the cops.
22 Mar 2009, 0226 hrs IST, Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN
The first recorded cases of ragging were in the 8th century BC during the Olympics in Greece. The practice spread fast and menacingly — first to the armed forces and then to educational institutions. Even though it claimed its first victim in Cornell in the US in 1873, it was World War I that injected cruelty into the mechanics of ragging. Students who had gone to war, returned to college, grimly determined to use newly learnt methods of torture on campus.
From then, the practice has been responsible for the untimely demise of many a parent’s dream. The latest victim is Aman Kachroo who was recently beaten to death by senior students at the government-run Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College at Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. Sadly, he may not be the last. It will need more than a change of law to change the mindset of those who rag college freshmen.
Worldwide, government measures have been too little and too late but many believe they have at least succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of students about the consequences of torturing junior members of the fraternity.
Why has this not happened in India? Ministers and government officials have largely been silent on ragging. The exception is Tamil Nadu, which tried to bring in anti-ragging legislation in 1997.
The lack of perception about the grave fallouts of ragging could be gauged from the action of the Himachal government subsequent to Kachroo’s death. The last time the state had promulgated an anti-ragging ordinance was in 1992 but it lapsed after the government of the day was dismissed. This time, it took them 12 days to draft a new one, which the Centre approved.
India’s failure to recognize ragging as a social problem forced the Supreme Court eight years ago to say, in a public interest litigation filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission, that “some of the reported incidents have crossed the limits of decency, morality and humanity.” The Court was referring to the deaths, suicide attempts, sexual abuse and mental torture inflicted on freshmen by senior students.
Even so, it did not ask for the offenders to face criminal charges. In 2001, the Court referred to the special legislation enacted by some states making ragging a criminal offence, with the stark comment: “Ragging cannot be cured merely by making it a cognizable offence.” A two-judge Bench said: “We feel the acts of indiscipline and misbehaviour on the part of the students must primarily be dealt with within the institution and by exercise of disciplinary authority of teachers over students and of managements of the institutions over the teachers and students.”
The Court’s high hopes of institutions, their management, teachers and students was dealt a terrible blow by an NGO report that revealed seven ragging-related deaths in 2007 and 31 between 2001-2007. The Court was forced to realize that a lenient approach would not work. It asked former CBI director R K Raghavan to find a comprehensive, if bitter, antidote to the evil.
Bitter it was. The Raghavan committee offered 50 suggestions, some stringent, others pre-emptive. The Court accepted its report and directed educational institutions, at the very minimum, to expel the guilty. It also allowed institutions to register police cases against the accused. The message the Court wanted to drive home was that “the punishment should be exemplary and justifiably harsh to stop the recurrence of ugly incidents”.
It deterred many but didn’t stop ragging altogether.
Not least, students at the Himachal Pradesh college where Kachroo died. It did not stop senior girls at the Government Agriculture and Medical
College in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, from forcing a fresher to strip dance. The victim could not bear the humiliation and attempted suicide.
Now, the Court has threatened the principals of these colleges with contempt of court proceedings. It has also decided to take stock of anti-ragging measures by the two concerned state governments. But are stringent laws enough to tackle this menace? It would also require a collective transformation in the mindset of all of us, individually and collectively.
"The court also sent the four accused — Ajay Verma, Naveen Verma, Abhinav Verma and Mukul Sharma — to judicial custody for two weeks today.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kangra, Omapati Jamwal said all the four accused were produced in the court of the judicial magistrate (first class), Kangra, and were sent to judicial remand up to April 1"