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Critics have stated that this menace present at universities is not merely a socio-legal problem, but has certain psychological effects as well

Ragging, a social problem, which has increased the risk of suicide in universities, continues to rise. This is due to responsible authorities failing to provide a fitting solution to end this problem. The latest victim of this menace was Amali Chathurika, a 23-year-old student of Sabaragamuwa University. According to the victim’s mother, the daughter committed suicide because she couldn’t bear the inhuman and merciless ragging she was subject to at university.

Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act, No. 20 of 1998 was enacted following a series of ragging related incidents in 1997. This was to eliminate ragging and other forms of violent and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment from educational institutions.

According to the Act, any person who commits or participates in ragging, within or outside an educational institution upon conviction is liable to rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.  Such convicts may also be required to pay compensation. This amount is determined by court and if the ragging relates to sexual harassment or grievous hurt, the offender will be slapped with a jail term not exceeding 10 years, where the imprisonment will be rigorous.

Despite Acts being enacted to curb ragging in higher educational institutions, this menace, at universities, continues. It is also reported that few students have left their courses due to unbearable ragging. Those who detest being subject to this menace are now opting to enter private higher educational institutions where ragging remains minimum.

FUTA Spokesman Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri opined that this issue will never be solved unless the Students Unions try and make an honest attempt to remove it from the university culture.

“Students Unions as well as the administration are tolerating this type of unacceptable acts. The student unions are very well aware if ragging is happening in their university, but they are not taking any action to stop it,” Dewasiri said.
He blamed Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) for not being able to stand for students’ rights when they are affected severely by such merciless practices happening at university premises.

“ I have evidence to prove that these so-called students unions are involved in incidents of ragging and it should also be mentioned that the persons, anti-raggers who go against such actions are harassed in universities,” said Dr. Dewasiri.
However, IUSF Convener Najith Indika mentioned that the authorities have always tried to put the blame on the student unions saying they are not taking any action regarding such serious matters. He also expressed that it is very unfair to make the students unions responsible for ragging.

“We are totally against ragging and we have not encouraged it in any way and we will never support it. For the past few years our unions have done quite a lot to stop ragging, especially physical ragging,” Indika said.

Further elaborating on the matter, Indika mentioned, “If you take the Sabaragamuwa University, which made headlines which said it has severe ragging, is completely untrue. The death of the student happened because she had some sort of a mental illness for which she had been receiving treatments for some time. I can assure that Sabaragamuwa University does not have any sort of ragging,” he assured.

Sabaragamuwa University Students’ Union President Nuwan Buddhika expressing his view stated that there some incidents were reported, related to ragging years ago at the university. However, he said that now there is no such thing as ragging at the university.

“Our union has interfered in a great way to stop ragging at the university. As the President I can assure you that at Sabaragamuwa University, ragging is not happening and we will never let it happen at the university,” said Buddhika.

He also reiterated the fact that there is no connection between the death of the 23-year-old, who committed suicide, and ragging since ragging is not taking place at the university.

Though there is no official anti-ragging movement in the country with the situation of ragging worsening yearly, anti-ragging movements started to appear in all universities. As a result some faculties in several universities have become rag-free due to these movements. It should also be noted that internal clashes have arisen between ragging and anti-ragging movements.

A third year student, who is an anti-ragger at the University of Colombo, who wished to remain anonymous, said that students have to endure a lot of painful experiences in their first year.

“They try to justify it by saying ragging is a sub culture and if a student wish to be a part of the university and its culture he/she will have to face it, which is false because to be a part of the university culture why should someone be subjected  to violence? And besides that there are a lot of other cultures, a diversity of cultures at a university and not just the sub culture,” he said.

The student also mentioned that some students are facing severe ragging just because they are studying in English medium and some even pretend that they are studying in Sinhala medium, so that they will not have to face that experience.

Another student stated, “No one has the right to interrupt the personal liberty of another. This issue should be looked in a broader perspective since it is a very complex problem and I think the administrators of the institutions should be brave enough to stop ragging,” he said. Further elaborating on the point he expressed ragging is easy to stop if a proper mechanism is put in place.

Ragging is not merely a socio-legal problem. It has certain psychological effects as well.

Consultant Psychiatric, Professor Samudra Kathriarachchi reiterated the fact that ragging cannot be stopped by regulatory authorities only. The students should also give their support to put an end to it.

“Prevention of ragging should be a collective effort. Ragging is something which cannot be justified. It does not help to develop a personality,” said Kathriarachchi.

“Change in attitude is the most suitable solution for these types of issues. So I would like to ask the students to come forward and try and change the attitude of the students who are responsible for such unacceptable actions which would make another physically and most importantly mentally ill, forever. Say no to ragging,” she added.

Ragging also known as “Systemized form of human rights abuse in educational institutions in South Asia” and a “Social evil”, has become a violent and hazardous exercise over the years. Ragging has also created a negative impact on students. Only the victim knows how painful, harmful and traumatic ragging can be. There are enough cases reported on ragging where victims were unable to bear the pain and shock of mental and physical torture. Such helpless individuals lost their mental balance forever. It is clear that ragging doesn’t aid personality development. Value of love, humanity, compassion and mutual respect for each other should be exercised if we are to overcome a social menace like ragging.

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