The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Burning ‘game’ at Stephen’s
- Calcutta boy set on fire during suspected ragging session

New Delhi, Oct. 3: A Calcutta boy studying at Delhi’s St Stephen’s College has complained to college authorities that he was set on fire during a ragging session.

College authorities have confirmed the episode, which occurred on the night of September 27, but said it was an “accident” and not a case of ragging.

The former student of St Xavier’s School, Calcutta, suffered burns on his hands and knees after seniors sprayed him with deodorant and threw a burning match at him.

A first-year Chemistry Honours student, the boy is now back with his family in Calcutta, the college authorities have told The Telegraph.

The victim reluctantly confirmed the incident, and the burns to his knees and hand, but said he did not wish to pursue the matter further. “Whatever punishment has been handed out to them is more than enough,” he said, speaking from Calcutta. The boy also felt that the match was not thrown with intent to harm him.

Four second-year students who attacked the boy have been penalised, the college authorities said.

“Three of them, who were drunk, have been punished more severely than the fourth,” a senior college official said. The three have been suspended for one year from the hostel, and for a month from classes.

The fourth, who the college authorities say was sober, has been suspended for one month from classes and the hostel — called the “Residence” in St Stephen’s lingo.

St Stephen’s authorities, however, did not agree that the incident is a case of ragging and said it was a “game”.

“Students often play a game... spraying deodorant on their hands, and setting a match to it. It burns at a low temperature, and so does not hurt the skin. They were indulging in the same game,” an administrator said.

The college admits, however, that the victim and his friends did not see the incident as a “game”.

According to the college authorities, a group of the victim’s friends, led by a second-year student, “attacked” the four boys who set him on fire, “dragged them” and “beat them up”.

The second-year student who led the retaliation has also been suspended for one month from classes and hostel.

Under Supreme Court guidelines, put in place by a committee headed by former CBI chief R.K. Raghavan, college authorities who receive a complaint of ragging from a student should “immediately” register a case with police.

“It is recommended that the college authorities should first file a case, and then continue their internal investigation,” Rajendra Prasad, one of the members of the Raghavan committee, said.

If the victim or his parents are not satisfied with the action — or the lack of it — that the college authorities have taken, they can file a second complaint with the college, following which the institute authorities have to go to the police, Prasad explained.

“The victim or his parents can also approach the police directly if the college ignores the second plea. Then the college is also accountable,” Prasad added.

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