At Present, ragging or bullying has become a common phenomenon in Sri Lanka. Ragging can be seen in most of the government universities and in private institutions. Ragging can be defined as any action which causes, or of making any physical, mental or physical harm, fear, shame or embarrassment to a student.
The history of ragging runs back to 1974. Some trainee mathematics teachers at the then Vidyalankara University (now University of Kelaniya) have been ragged. As a result, twelve undergraduates were expelled and four officials were penalized for their failure to take appropriate action. This is the first major step taken against university ragging by a Sri Lankan government.
When it comes to University of Peradeniya, Rupa Rathnaseeli, a student of Faculty of Agriculture, in 1975, jumped from the second floor of Ramanathan Hall to escape physical ragging carried out by female students in the Hall. Rupa was confined to a wheelchair and not being able to cope with her physical state, committed suicide in 1997.
In 1997, 21-year-old S. Varapragash, an Engineering student of University of Peradeniya, died from a kidney failure following severe ragging by senior students.
In recent years, 2011, D.K Nishantha committed suicide hanging in a tree in a shrubbery area located not far from the Marcus Fernando Boys’ Hostel. According to the police, the deceased had been a witness to the alleged sexual abuse of his friend by several other students inside the dorm. The police stated that since the time of the alleged sex abuse case which had occurred in 2010, the student had not attended university.
The pressure which came from ragging created the anti-raggers in the universities of Sri Lanka. The major view of the students and the lecturers in the group is to prevent ragging and bullying on freshers. Also they act as a protective group for the freshers in the universities.
In the University of Peradeniya, there are around 800 anti-raggers. The mere reason of being an anti-ragger is that we are against the ragging procedure within the university. Not supporting the ragging procedure excludes us; anti-raggers from the so-called norm; ragging in the university.
When it comes to raggers, the common belief they have is that the university is controlled not by the dean, vice chancellor or anyone, but by the raggers. This statement can be proved through the incident of withholding the Dean of the Faculty of Management by some raggers. The reason behind this, according to a 3rd year management student is that the Dean had not allowed students who had not completed 80% of the attendance, to face the end semester exam. As a result, the raggers withheld the Dean forcefully within the Management faculty. Finally, Dean had to allow all the students to face the exam because the raggers acted violently. This kind of an incident shows how powerful and also how violent raggers can be. On the contrary, this shows how weak the authority is.
The anti-raggers are highly deprived within the university territory. Though we are 3rd year students, there are places such as Polonnaruwa, Wus Canteen, Lover’s Lane, Gemba Canteen and some routes we cannot enter. However, for me, it is a question how they mark their territory.
Though the rules and regulations are strict now than earlier, still there are physical, verbal and mental torture the anti-raggers have go though because of these ‘marked territories’ of raggers.
What I personally believe is that university is for everyone. This is not a place which is owned by anyone. But the problem is that not everyone thinks in a same way. Specially, raggers try to harass anti-raggers because that is how they can show their power. A month ago, some 4th year anti-rag students were verbally and physically harassed because they were having a meal in the Gemba Canteen. When a lecturer of the English Department tried to solve the conflict, she also has been ragged by the 1st year raggers. What is worst is that the authorities also remain silent when it comes to these kinds of situations. One might think that is not a serious incident. But, these actions show the disrupted and transformed mentality of the raggers. I do not believe that breeding sick, mental patients to the society is the aim of the university. Also, this questions the justice, equality and also the power of authority in the University of Peradeniya.
I remember two years back, when, I registered in the university, the administration gave all the new comers a bunch of printed papers which have described the legal consequences of ragging, how ragging is prohibited within the university, whom to address when one undergoes ragging etc. The irony of the administration in the university is that ragging happens everywhere, even in front of the eyes of the dean and marshals, but no one takes an action against it. Hence, if the authority, the wisest, the most powerful people in the university take sides with the raggers and take no action to evacuate or even control ragging, how can we, a minority fight back?
What is special when it comes to anti-raggers is we do not mingle with each and everyone and everything in the university. In a way, it is a privilege to be excluded from the ‘accepted group’ in the university. Due to being anti-raggers, we do not need to participate in strikes, “keta”, or to dodge lectures when there are ‘token’ days. Thus, we have the opportunity to complete the degree within the given period of time.
In ragging, it is obvious that physical, verbal and mental torturing procedure should be eliminated. But, there are some remarkable points when it comes to ragging. The senior raggers teach the juniors the entire history of the university. They teach each and every detail of the university and realize how special the university is. Yet, according to some anti-raggers, though they love the university and its surrounding, they do not know the exact definitions and how precious some items and places in the university are. Foe some anti-raggers, coming to the university is more like going to a tuition class because it is same process we followed when we were learning in a tuition class.
Ragging creates a unity within the batch. It is really good to know each and everyone in the batch. This creates a sense of belongingness within students. But, their approach of making the unity in the batch is problematic.
According to some raggers, they enjoy the ragging because they think that once day it will create beautiful memories. In a way, it is all about the way we look at ragging because, if ragging is bad, it cannot be good for one party and bad for another party.
According to my opinion there is no specific answer for this question. Yet, it is unethical to harass another human being in any way. However, it can be concluded that both raggers and anti-raggers have different perspectives towards their beliefs and they work according to them.