is Ragging? - Evolution of Ragging
Substantial ink has
been spent in discussing the incidents and ill-effects of ragging
but we have hardly ever tried to go deeper to the roots of this
savage phenomenon which is rapidly eroding our education system.
Ragging, Hazing, Fagging, Bullying, Pledging, Horse-playing
etc. are different terms used in different parts of the world but
each signifying the same old practice of welcoming the fresher in
a barbaric manner. This phenomenon can be traced back to as early
as 7th or 8th century A.D. In Greek culture, new entrants to the
sport community were subjected to all kinds of humiliations and
teasing to inculcate a team spirit in them. Gradually with the passage
of time this technique was subjected to myriad modifications and
was later adopted by the military forces, from there it finally
entered in the education system.
inception in the educational arena, ragging underwent
several modifications before morphing into an organized form
of campus violence. During the 18th century forming a student
organization in colleges was very much in vogue particularly
in the European countries. This concept was later adopted
by the U.S. universities as well. In the period 1828-1845,
several student organizations popped up in the U.S. campuses.
These were named after
Greek letters like Alpha, Phi, Beta, Kappa, Epsilon, Delta etc and
were called as Greek Letter Organizations (GLO's) or Fraternities.
The new entrants to these fraternities were known as PLEDGES. During
this time ragging (called as Hazing in west) existed in its rudimentary
form and was merely a ritual to test the courage of the pledge.
The first ragging related death occurred in 1873 when
a freshman from Cornell University fell into a gorge as a consequence
Ragging underwent a massive transformation after World-War
1. It was during this time that it started to acquire its real brutal
form. Soldiers returning from war re-entered the college and brought
with them the technique of Hazing (ragging) learned in military
camp. These techniques were used to make individual fail as an individual
and succeed as a team. This philosophy of team development continued
to be used in different fraternities. Eventually when fewer military
students entered college these techniques were passed onto others
who did not understand their purpose or usage and ragging became
a brutal and hazardous exercise. Gradually in the early 20th century
ragging related violence started to escalate in the western countries.
the tradition of ragging was imported along with the English
education. Though it existed in the Army and English public
schools much before the country's independence, it became
conspicuous only after independence. Ragging then meant seniors
mocking and jesting at juniors. Till the late 60's ragging
was never a serious problem in India as it was relatively
in a much milder form, primarily because higher education
was confined to some particular sect of the society and hence
ragging was confined only to a part of the civilized community
of this country. Gradually as the higher education became
more and more accessible to different communities, ragging
became a soft weapon to settle the animosity between students
of different castes, communities and religion etc.
of the media during the 80's made ragging much more brutal and
violent in India. Soon ragging became a measuring rod to test the
grit of the seniors. Many seniors, who were reluctant to rag their
juniors, finally succumbed to peer pressure. It is still an important
factor in Indian ragging.
During the early 90's rapid mushrooming of new private Engineering
and Medical colleges led to several disastrous experiments with
this old practice of ragging. It made Southern India a hub of this
brutal activity. During the 90's ragging related suicides began
to increase at a rapid rate.
In 1997 Tamil Nadu, which was one of the worst affected state,
became the first province in India to bring legislation against
ragging. In 2001, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India banned ragging
throughout the country. It was now left to the college authorities
to enforce this law. This led to complete disappearance of daytime
ragging in campus which was much healthier and a safer mode of interaction
while more threatening and virulent ragging in the hostels continues
to thrive in most of the colleges. History teaches us that borrowing
the foreign culture has always proven to be disastrous to the importing
nation. Ragging is just another example to it. We tend to forget
that ragging is a western culture and is deleterious in a multi-ethnic
and diverse society such as India. Even in the west ragging was
always used as tool to take out vengeance between the Blacks and
In India, a myth that ragging makes the fresher bold has always
existed. This has given a passive social approbation to this cruel
practice. As long as this exists ragging will never see its demise.
In its several years of existence ragging has done more harm
than good. It has claimed lives of several thousand innocent
students all across the world. Today, ragging no longer exists in
its brutal form at places where it actually originated but is rapidly
proliferating in the under-developed and developing nations of the
world. Presently Sri Lanka is the worst affected country in the
world. Has ragging reached its pinnacle or is the worst yet to come?
How many more lives will it claim before our society wakes up? Perhaps
only time shall answer these questions.
Contributing Writer: Harsh Agarwal is Co-
Founder of an anti-ragging organisation CURE Coalition to Uproot
Ragging from Education www.noragging.com
and can be contacted at [email protected]