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Ask any college student what he or she was most nervous about on the first day of college and the answer will most probably be the same -- ragging. But what is ragging? Who does it and why?
There is no clear definition of ragging (or hazing), but it is generally understood to be the act of college seniors subjecting juniors to teasing or practical jokes. The term includes a relatively harmless prank such as asking a junior to roll a coin around the basketball court to more serious or dangerous acts like sexual abuse and torture.
Ragging initially began as an innocent tradition to get new students acquainted with each other but has gradually become a method by which anti-social elements of the institute assert their dominance on the campus.
Although ragging can happen in any college, it is most prevalent in medical and engineering colleges. The reason being most students live on campus and are thus soft targets.
What to do if you are ragged
Ragging can assume any form -- abusive language directed at the student or his family, making juniors run errands for seniors, sexual abuse, forcing freshers to strip or speak obscenely about professors in front of other students. Basically, any form of abuse against juniors amounts to ragging.
If any of this is happening to you, inform your family about it first. Going against one's college seniors can be stressful for a fresher, so make sure you have all the support you can get from your family and friends.
The second step is to approach the institute's authorities. Inform them of the goings-on and the names of the culprits. Most colleges have an anti-ragging cell -- an association of professors and students who track down and take disciplinary action against students indulging in ragging.
If the college authorities seem unwilling to take action, and the severity of the offence is great, you can even approach the police. Ragging has been recognised as a crime in India and the police are legally obliged to investigate the matter.
On the right side of the law
The Raghavan Committee report, submitted to the court in May 2007, proposes the inclusion of ragging as a special section under the Indian penal code. The Supreme Court's interim order on May 16, 2007, has made it obligatory for academic institutions to file FIRs with the police in case of a complaint of ragging.
This ensures that ragging is recignised as a criminal offence and must be dealt with by the police. An official complaint cannot be decided on by any disciplinary committees of the academic institution, but will follow due criminal proceedings.
How to deal with being ragged
Sometimes, intervention may come too late. In a number of cases, students have succumbed to the humiliation of ragging, and fall victim to bouts of depression and lack of interest in academic pursuits. Extreme abuse has even caused some students to attempt suicide.
It is recommended that students grappling with the humiliation of ragging seek help from a trained counsellor. Parents and teachers must take it upon themselves to safeguard the mental health of students by keeping all the channels of communication open. Every effort must be made to help a victim deal with the incident and move on.
So, don't let the fear of being ragged prevent you from pursuing a happy and fruitful college career. Remember, it is as much a crime to tolerate oppression as it is to subject someone to it. Timely action can help change your freshman year from a nightmare into a dream come true.
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