Rites of PASSAGE

Published: June 2, 2009 - 12:49 Updated: July 1, 2015 - 16:36

Stand up for yourself. Refuse to be ragged. If your heart tells you what is happening is wrong, you must then fight it 
Anjali Nayar Delhi 

How many dead people will it take for the world to wake up to the terror of ragging? Even as reports on ragging-related deaths flood in, and as some inspired individuals move the courts and seek to enact a ban, many perverse college students are still planning the 'perfect' ragging tactics to employ on freshers when colleges reopen and continue to harass candidates seeking admission and appearing  for interviews.

 I wonder what gives certain people the nerve to assume that they have every license in the world to humiliate and belittle other people they have never even met before, to judge them, to opine freely about them, and to gang up together and hound them for months. Why do entire communities rag? Why do hundreds of people lose their heads in screaming sessions, in spreading violence and terror, and why are such people supported in their cruelty by their peers?

New students join college infinitely enthused, energies abounding, excited and curious about what they would soon be learning. And what is their first lesson? To graciously lose all sense of human dignity and allow people to treat them like shit?  To hide behind the doors of toilets every year, racked with anger and angst they are unable to contain, desperately trying to gather all sense of lost pride and faith?

 By being ragged they are not just being initiated into a new college. They are being initiated into the crowd, trained to tune their feelings into the pulse of the mob and hone their mentality to fit in with the mind of the rabble.

 When I was a child I used to be baffled thinking about Hitler and the holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the capture and enslavement of Africans, state-aided annihilations and genocides, world wars and religious massacres. Why do people get so blinded? What compels them to commit atrocities? How can they be so cruel, so stupid to collectively perpetrate such horrors?

When everyone is blind, it is so easy to be blind yourself. If you see a mob running with swords and clubs, join them or be clubbed down yourself. Put other people down, make them feel weaker, brutalise them, and in comparison, feel yourself empowered. You have a right, don't you? You gained the rite of passage when your seniors did it to you. So go ahead, do to others what they did to you. Have your revenge. And let the vicious circle never end.

 Then there is the often overused excuse of wanting to get to know people. If that's the point, then perhaps some other mode of interaction could be employed. Like talking with each other in the canteen, playing games together, frisbee, basketball... Painting walls together, making art or music, singing, organising events, talent fests or competitions, where people can interact and get to know
each other.

 Freshers must understand one thing. Their seniors are only doing it because they're shit scared you would turn hostile and refuse to obey what they command you to do. Imagine the humiliation a senior would face if someone stood up to him and said "sorry, I won't do that". They're worried about salvaging their reputations among their classmates. They are driven by their own fears, their own insecurities. They're terrified of finding someone unwilling to obey them, and that's what drives them to extreme measures of collective suppression right from the beginning.

Many people come out to hound the juniors basically to get at members of the opposite sex, and satiate their deprivation through acts they force the juniors to comply with. In this context, dancing, singing, playacting are all highly animalistic modes of judging the potential mating abilities and sexual development of their prey. It's the sickest sort of selection procedure anyone could follow. If you think a girl or boy is catching you again and again because they're interested in you, then trust me, in most probability you're right. So Run! Run far from such a person. Because these horrid people have the guts to approach you only through this hierarchal setup.  

Ragging is nothing but a mode proving their superiority, a way of retribution for deprivation and disgusting thought processes.  A way of satiating all that is sick, evil, and disgusting in their characters. Why do people commit gang-rape? To make it easier to brutally subdue the victim, and perhaps to revel in 'togetherness' of the crime. 

No one in this world has the right to encroach upon a stranger's space uninvited, to physically humiliate or assault him, to scream at him or humiliate him, to judge him from head to toe, to force him to dance or sing or perform when he doesn't wish to. We have no right to demand someone to do something against his will. Unless people stand up against this evil together, then, like a mutation, it will continue to be passed on further down the generations.

 This is why we need an amendment to the Constitution to ban ragging. And we ourselves need to take up the responsibility.  Those of us who've been through it, and realise the harm it causes, should help educate the youth. Parents and teachers should make sure to teach their children that ragging is a heinous crime. That it is no bravado to endure it. That if your heart tells you that what is happening is wrong, you must then fight it.

It is an education we should impart to children from a very young age, but perhaps in India we still prefer to teach our children to be subdued, be conformists, quiet bearers of injustice. It is vital that parents support their children, and encourage them to stand up for their rights, rather than trying to convince them to comply. Many of us in our troubled times turned to our parents for advice.
I did too. My own parents mumbled that I should not lose strength, and 'be game'. I wish they had encouraged me to resist.

Teachers themselves are afraid to voice opinions against ragging, fearing a decline in their popularity, strategically staying away from 'meddling' in student affairs. But if they were honourable and had any sense, they would teach the newcomers to resist the violence. One particular teacher at my college successfully kept his students away from ragging, although it was hard work for him. If more teachers would do the same, the world would be a much better place to live in.

And here is my final note to those youngsters who will be starting college this year. Stand up for yourself. Refuse to be ragged. If they force you, threaten to complain. If they continue to hound you, go ahead and complain.  Do not be afraid of being shunned by the community, if that is what they threaten they will do.

And be strong in your resolve. If you find fellow students who are also refusing to be ragged, then support each other. If all other fronts crumble, and darkness starts to creep in upon you, just listen to the quiet voice inside you, and it will give you strength.

Do not be afraid if you are alone, be proud to be the vanguard for a new social order. They might boycott you for a while, but in that case you'd feel glad to have the community off your back, and with that you will find many peaceful hours in the day to continue with your studies and introspect. It is no harm to be alone. You do not need the companionship of cowards and bullies. It is better to have a few friends than have a crowd of traitors around you.

In this state of isolation, you will discover your true friends. And by being aloof from this menace of ragging, you will realise how stupid it is to be involved in it. You will need to draw strength from your own self, but trust me, each and every day will bring along its share of magical moments that will fill you with all the confidence you need. And this confidence, this sense of self, will last with you throughout your life.

The writer is a filmmaker and animator. She recently graduated from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad

Stand up for yourself. Refuse to be ragged. If your heart tells you what is happening is wrong, you must then fight it Anjali Nayar Delhi

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This story is from print issue of HardNews