As the new academic year gets underway in colleges across the country, the number of ragging cases reported is also seeing a spike. On Tuesday alone, two separate cases of ragging were reported in newspapers.
Twelve second-year medical students from ESI Medical College were suspended for ragging a junior. And in AU Engineering College in Visakhapatnam, eight second-year integrated chemistry course students were found to have allegedly forced some juniors to parade half-naked and also verbally abused them.
And while the extreme cases of ragging, such as the ones above, get reported in the media, ragging can take on several forms, many of them subtler. TNM spoke to some people about how you can identify ragging, and what you can do if you are being ragged or know someone who is a victim of ragging.
What to do if you are being ragged
Dr Kasthuri, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry in MVJ Medical College in Bengaluru, previously served in the anti-ragging flying squad for girls at the Bangalore Medical College.
She argues that instances of ragging have reduced now because of increased awareness, stringent action against those found guilty of ragging and anti-ragging measures in colleges. â€śHowever, the incidents could be more discreet,â€ť she admits.
Sumithra*, an anti-ragging committee coordinator at a government college in Tamil Nadu, says that if you are being ragged, you can approach the Head of your Department, or members of the anti-ragging committee or cell â€“ a body which every university and institution has to have under the UGCâ€™s mandate.
The details of the latter are usually made available on the website, and shared with students when they join. â€śAlternately, if they are afraid of their identity being revealed and resulting in more ragging or bullying, we have suggestion boxes across the college. Students can use that to anonymously report incidents of ragging. They need not name the victim or even the perpetrator, but we do need the location of the incident. That helps us find out who is the culprit,â€ť Sumithra says.
Dr Kasthuri adds that it is understandable students may feel intimidated at the prospect of reporting ragging due to multiple reasons like peer pressure or fear of retaliation. In this case they can choose to write anonymously to the Anti-Ragging Cell.
She also points out the behavioural signs that someone may be a victim of ragging. â€śRagging may not always take violent forms or leave physical marks. A victim may start showing fear and anxiety and avoid certain people or situations to avoid being ragged. They may eventually start avoiding their close friends too. And this fear and anxiety may spill on to other aspects of their life as well,â€ť she explains.
Both Sumithra and Dr Kasthuri say that if you have witnessed someone ragging or being ragged, you can also send an anonymous email or tip off an anti-ragging cell member or staff.
Further, the UGC website has a mechanism to file a complaint online. Click here to access the complaint form. You can also call the toll free 24x7 helpline number 1800 180 5522.
Punishment for ragging
Every student and their parent/guardian are made to sign an undertaking during the admission process which prohibits them from indulging in ragging.
In case of an incident of ragging, an institute is mandated to have an FIR registered. The punishment, if a person is found guilty, then depends on the sections of the Indian Penal Code applicable in that instance.
The All-India Council For Technical Education (AICTE) and Medical Council of India (MCI) have their own guidelines, in addition to the ones laid down by the UGC.
Some states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh also have state-level regulations on ragging.
While in minor cases, institutions may let off a person with a warning and counselling, suspension, cancellation of admission, suspension from the hostel, debarring from taking exams and rustication from the institution and barring admission in any other education institution are also possible punishments, depending on severity of the crime.
What is ragging?
The University Grants Commission (UGC) defines ragging in the following manner:
1. Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness a fresher or a junior student.
2. Indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or Psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student.
3. Asking the students to do any act or perform something which such student will not o in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or Psyche of a fresher or a junior student.
4. In 2016, UGC also included the following under ragging: Any act of physical or mental abuse (including bullying and exclusion) targeted at another student (Fresher or otherwise) on the ground of colour, race, religion, caste, ethnicity, gender (including transgender), sexual orientation, appearance, nationality, regional origins, linguistic identity, place of birth, place of residence or economic background.
Ragging would therefore include something to the likes of what allegedly happened at AU Engineering College, but also things like making someone do their assignments, making them get food, financial exploitation, not letting them access certain spaces or areas in the college for no other reason than they are juniors.