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VICIOUS FUN

Evidently, outlawing ragging in educational institutions has not helped eradicate it. The terrible incident of vicious and painful ragging reported by the victim from Jalpaiguri Government Engineering College could have destroyed the first-year student’s life; for the time being, it has made his immediate career uncertain. There have been equally bad, or worse, incidents earlier, which is why anti-ragging committees have been formed in most residential institutions. The Jalpaiguri college incident is proof enough that nothing has sufficed. There is a peculiarly complicated psychology working behind the urge to “rag” new students, a complexity that is perhaps not always fully appreciated by those in authority. They certainly know by now that the attitude of “boys will be boys”, or “let the girls have a bit of fun” can have dangerous, sometimes tragic and bloody, consequences. But old habits of thinking die hard, and perhaps it has been generally felt that the law against ragging and the anti-ragging committees would be enough to kill the practice. Yet the Jalpaiguri Government Engineering College itself has admitted to a recent, though earlier incident, in which those found guilty were suspended. Other incidents have been reported too, in other places. Ragging has not gone away, it has just gone a little underground.

The practice has many pretexts: it is just a way of getting to know the newcomers, it is an initiation ceremony, it is a way to test the newcomer’s sprit, it is just a tease. These are just that, pretexts, intended to disguise the real impulse behind ragging, which is torture. Baldly put, it is the primal desire to torture another human being when he is at his most vulnerable, unsure of himself, nervous, without support, in a new place, entering a new life. Part of the pleasure comes from sharing among a mob, big or small, the glee of torturing one person. If education in a group is to make a major contribution to the socialization of a young person, then ragging is an indication that the process is frighteningly incomplete. Bullying in the school can take on dangerous proportions too, and it is a manifestation of the same urge. In most cases, that is easier to manage and managing it helps in the socialization of the youngster who likes to bully others. But when young adults are involved, as in ragging, mild measures will not do. A law may exist in all its glory, but its implementation must come with the harshest of penalties. The Jalpaiguri college incident demonstrates that suspension is not enough, that has been done before. Only expulsions, carried out consistently, will ultimately eradicate the practice.

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