A day after being suspended on a charge of ragging from the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (formerly the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute, better known by its acronym VJTI), Amit Mathur (not his real name) sits in a corner weeping inconsolably.
"I am not involved," insists Amit, an engineering student. "I am innocent. But no one is ready to listen to me."
The desperate youth threatens to commit suicide if he is removed from the college. "My parents are poor and they have paid my fees with great difficulty. They will not be able to digest the news that I have been suspended."
Amit is not alone. His friend Shailesh Kumar (not his real name) says, "Both of us were not even there when the ragging took place. I am being targeted for no reason. The authorities have made a mistake. I don't know what lies ahead now."
Amit and Shailesh were suspended from the VJTI on Tuesday after they were found guilty of ragging two freshers on the campus. Both hail from Jammu and Kashmir and had been admitted to the institute under the quota provided by the Maharashtra government to students from disturbed areas of India.
"Our families are living in refugee camps in Jammu," says Amit. "My parents won't be able to show their faces in our community after they see me back at home."
According to the management, both Amit and Shailesh took part in the ragging, used abusive language against the new students, and told them to strip to prove they were male. But the two are hopeful that someone will hear their plea.
The two students who were ragged had also come to Mumbai from J&K on August 26 to join the institute. They were taken completely by surprise when asked to perform menial tasks by the seniors.
The victims were staying in the 'A' block of the campus and were called by the seniors to the 'D' block and abused. When one of them started arguing, he was beaten.
All but one of the seniors who were allegedly involved are from J&K. The exception is from Maharashtra.
VJTI is a reputed engineering institution established in 1887. It has 3,000 students selected by an entrance test from among the brightest every year.
"The only [earlier] incident of ragging was reported in 1994, and at that time too we suspended a student immediately," said Professor B K Landhe, head of the department of electrical engineering and of the three-member committee set up to inquire into the latest incident.
"We have to take disciplinary action," Prof Landhe explained. "If we don't, ragging will spread like wildfire on our campus."
When rediff.com contacted the victims, they said the management had asked them not to discuss the incident with anyone. "I am only happy to say that justice was done," one said.
Most of the students and staff at the institute refused to talk. But Jai Kadam, a friend of the victims, said, "I am happy that some of the senior students were punished. One of the seniors [who was suspended] was very rude to all of us. He always used to harass the juniors."
Jai, however, also said he believes that some of those who have been implicated in the matter are innocent.