India: Most students keep mum over ragging
New study shows 'ragging' is widely accepted at many Indian universities. Source: Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock

The scourge of ragging on Indian university campuses is still prevalent, with students accepting the abusive behaviour and showing a reluctance to report cases of misconduct.

A study carried out by a committee mandated by the Supreme Court (SC), and reported by The Times of India, has revealed the continued prevalence of ragging in many higher education institutions across the country.

Surveying over 10,000 students from 37 universities, the report found that 45 percent said they felt bad about the ragging initially, but later accepted it and felt the treatment was alright.

Despite the sometimes violent or humiliating nature of the practice, 36 percent of students believe ragging prepares them for the harsh realities of the world, and 33 percent said they actually enjoyed the experience.

Among the respondents, 35 percent reported mild ragging and 4 percent said they had experienced severe ragging.

The results point to a worrying acceptance of the harassing practice amongst Indian university students despite a recent push from NGOs and anti-ragging cells to promote better awareness of the problem and encourage the reporting of any misconduct. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said that they did not make a complaint about the abuse.

Ragging is a custom that has long been practiced in Indian education institutes, both at university and high school level. Similar to ‘hazing’ seen in several American universities, it involves newcomers to an institution being bullied by more senior students.

It can range in severity from mild taunts and being told to address seniors as “sir” or “madam”, to extreme cases of physical violence and mental abuse. In some cases they can escalate to deadly levels with several suicides and murders being attributed to the practice.

In a particularly brutal case in 2012, 18-year-old aeronautical engineering student Ajmal PM was set on fire by his tormentors. On entering a public bathroom at his college in Bangalore, it is reported that Ajmal could smell paint thinner just before the whole room was set alight.

The student suffered burns across 60 percent of his body and succumbed to his injuries several days later.

The case of Pon Navarsu captivated the nation in 1996 due to its viciousness. The dismembered body of the 19-year-old medical student was found scattered in different parts of Tamil Nadu after senior John David murdered him after he refused to strip naked and lick his shoes.

These are particularly extreme cases but this latest report shows that the practice is still prevalent and the suggests that the battle for awareness may be failing.

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