21 September, 2020

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Eliminating “Ragging” – Who Is Willing To Do What It Takes ?

By Asoka N.I. Ekanayaka

Prof. Asoka N.I. Ekanayaka

It is good to observe the prevailing public uproar following the arrest of student thugs of the University of Peradeniya for ragging new entrants in a torture house they had set up for this purpose. However as someone who has seen it all before and can look back on a lifetime of frustrating endeavor against “ragging” ( an unfortunate euphemism for human torture in the campus) , one may be excused for being somewhat skeptical about the ultimate outcome of the current hue and cry and media publicity over ragging, before the dust settles and all is as it was before. Consequently this article is intended to set out some critical perspectives based on long personal experience resisting this abomination, for the benefit of those who may be serious about doing something about it today.

During 30 years of relentless struggle against this depravity as a university teacher and Dean of a Faculty one has often been up against the weakness and conciliatory mentality of university authorities to whom what matters is peace at any price on campus whatever the sacrifice of moral principle. In a world where outward appearances count more than the inner reality University authorities often share with other heads of institutions the vanity of wanting to show the world that all is well in their own neck of the woods. To frankly concede that things are bad and can only get better is not considered good for the institutional image nor does it flatter the ego of those who run it !

On one occasion I recall some brave anti rag students having to endure the stubborn inactivity of even a deputy proctor in the faculty where it is the primary duty of proctors to ensure student discipline, so much so that one wondered on whose side he was. And then there was the persistent apathy ignorance and naivety of a large majority of the academic community who couldn’t care less about the problem of ragging, so that the few who motivated by a deep sense of moral outrage and zero tolerance are passionate about eliminating this evil, find themselves out on a limb being resented as eccentric mavericks who are rocking the boat.

Sadly the few who have the courage and inspiration to fight this evil far from being appreciated frequently have to pay a painful price for their convictions. In my experience idealistic “anti-rag” students who bravely refuse to be ragged are compelled to be non-residential throughout their course despite the financial cost as it would be too dangerous for them to remain in halls of residence. Such high principled students are the cream of our youth with their commitment to freedom and human dignity. Yet I have known them to be abused, threatened, and assaulted by student thugs, and even resented by the teaching staff and administration, while being persecuted in various ways throughout their undergraduate course. Many are the occasions when such fine students have filed into my office in distress seeking sympathy and support during a time of trial. Indeed university authorities see to shrink from even using the expression “anti rag” for fear of alienating the larger student population.

Incredibly as a professor I myself have had to endure my share of hardship for being an inveterate opponent of campus ragging. I recall the terrific explosion of a powerful firecracker being set off just outside my bungalow at dead of night followed by a nasty telephone call. My vehicle parked in the faculty premises was broken into, ATM card stolen, and the pouch containing vehicle documents taken and thrown by the roadside where miraculously it was retrieved by a generous ice cream seller ! In 2006 one Faculty was plastered with offensive posters against a certain professor with the students on strike, all because he had on principle objected to the sham of a blood donation campaign organised by the seniors with its subtle overtones of coercion at a time when new entrants were being ragged by seniors. Some of the posters implied that he was a terrorist sympathiser, a dicey thing in the bad old days where anybody who had been so stigmatized was fair game. It transpired that in his naivety the Dean of the Faculty had himself approved the blood donation so that when trouble broke out this staff member was isolated with the Faculty Board looking at him as if he was the troublemaker, a classic case of ‘victim blaming’ ! It did not matter that in a vote of thanks several years before a Vice Chancellor had said of this ‘victim’ when he was stepping down as Dean of the Faculty that he “ appreciated the ethical and moral stand taken by him in arriving at decisions whenever there was a crisis in the university”. A decade later the sordid posters that should have been taken down immediately, were allowed to pollute the walls of the Faculty all day until late afternoon before they were finally removed. That exemplifies the attitude of the system towards the problem and those who fight against it. That is why the problem remains.

Such stories need to be told and there is more. But such examples of painful struggle point to the fact that the problem of campus torture is a malignant evil that goes much deeper and is far more complex and resistant to solution than people think. Despite much talk, pious statements and periodic howls by the media, campus torture will never be eliminated unless there is a fundamental transformation at the level of both heart and head in those dealing with the malady.

Firstly, at the level of the “heart” people must be moved by a profound sense of moral outrage. There is a world of a difference between simply being concerned about something opposing it or even condemning it, and reacting to it with passionate moral outrage. Sadly that is what is missing. Soon after Black July 1983 I recall the late Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe controversially calling for an expression of “shame and apology”. That was moral outrage. I recall telling students that moral outrage is when you feel so bad about something that it keeps you awake at night. The converse is a passion for righteousness that Jesus famously referred to in his Sermon of the Mount blessing those who “ hunger and thirst after righteousness”, where the desperate yearning for righteousness justice and truth is like food and drink to a man dying of starvation. How much sheer moral outrage about the torture of new entrants do we see in politicians, university administrators, academic staff, parents and society in general ? I wonder how many university teachers burn with the moral outrage and indignation that keeps them awake at night ?!! But that is what makes all the difference.

Far back in 1983 I wrote to the UGC Chairman Professor FSCP Kalpage proposing that a central task force or steering committee of people driven by moral outrage comprising “committed individuals with total unrelenting uncompromising commitment to the complete elimination of all forms of ragging”, be established with wide powers to study the problem, make recommendations, monitor their implementation and evaluate their impact. He responded asking for a list of persons who would fit that description ! I could think of very few then. I wonder how many there are now. However today 34 years later I hope the government would identify such a dedicated group and constitute them as a powerful task force coming directly under the President / Prime Minister with the task of formulating an effective final solution to completely eradicate ragging in our educational institutions within a specific time frame.

Secondly, at the level of the “head” there are widespread fallacies and misconceptions that hinder meaningful action to eliminate ragging. Ragging is nothing but the manifestation of human torture in educational institutions. To call it “ragging” rather than “ human torture” of new entrants is to dignify it as a form of student harassment peculiar to universities, a simple extension of bullying in schools. The reality is that both bullying in schools and ragging in universities are a clear violation of the 1984 UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Sri Lanka ratified this convention in 1994.

In 1997 two psychiatrists made important submissions to the UGC asking that “ragging” be re-designated as “torture” and those guilty prosecuted in terms of the UN convention. Yet 20 years later “ragging” remains the deceptive terminology commonly used in both universities and society. This is not a matter of semantics. Wrong definitions denote a wrong understanding of the problem. Where problems are wrongly understood they cannot be solved. A firm directive prohibiting use of the word “ragging” calling it “human torture” instead in all documentation may be a simple step. But it may have profound implications. Quite apart from the principle involved, the international disgrace of stigmatization as an institution where human torture (not ragging) is endemic, will uniquely pressure guilty universities to do something about the problem.

Ragging is also a gross violation of the human rights of new entrants. Identifying it as a human rights issue fundamentally changes the way we look at the problem. The sting of ragging ( as in the worst forms of human rights violations ) is the way it crushes the spirit, destroys the self respect, and distorts the personality of whole batches of students, so that their self confidence and power of critical thinking in shatters they become putty in the hands of their seniors who can then manipulate them according to their own agenda. In meekly submitting to ragging ( as unfortunately nearly all students do ) intellectuals becomes imbeciles en masse – a terrible thing to say of potential graduates who will be tomorrow’s leaders. But I have seen the difference in students who were motivated to resist ragging and say “no” to it. Indeed, I can produce several of them ( now successful professionals) as living examples of independent, self reliant, integrated personalities who resisted being scarred for life by the poison of ragging. Unfortunately they are a minority.

Seeing ragging as a human rights issue also means approaching it with zero tolerance. There can be no recognition of degrees of ragging. All ragging from the most mild to the most severe must be equally condemned and carry the same penalty. That means mandatory instant expulsion and legal action in terms of the 1998 Prohibition of Ragging Act where ragging is punishable with rigorous imprisonment. One reason why ragging has never been dealt with in this manner is the continued existence of the dangerous fallacy that there is something called “decent ragging” that may be tolerated if not actually encouraged. That nearly all academic staff and professionals have fallen for such nonsense is indicative of the state of intellectual authenticity and critical thinking in academia nowadays, but that is a separate issue. The reality is that from a human rights perspective even compelling a new entrant to sing a song or bothering him/her with silly questions are a wholly unacceptable human rights violation. Try doing that with a stranger on the pavement and you are likely to get assaulted ! Behaviour deemed uncivilised elsewhere in society cannot be legal tender in the campus.

There are many other stupid but widely held misconceptions that must be jettisoned before ragging will ever be eliminated. They include the notion that peace at any price must be preserved on campus no matter if it is peace without principle. I recall the naiveté of a senior academic colleague questioning an imaginative initiative “Action to Stimulate Student Empowerment to Resist Torture” (ASSERT) which sought to generate idealistic anti-raggers, on the grounds that this was provoking raggers and disturbing “ social harmony”! It was necessary to debunk this nonsense in a newspaper article titled “ Righteous conflict or sham harmony on campus ?”.

Other prejudices have consistently precluded the deployment of a permanent police presence on campuses to maintain law and order as in any other part of the country. Then there is the foolish notion that new entrants have something to learn from their seniors ( who are only an year older ! ), and that the university must be proactive in enabling them to get to know each other as if they were little children by facilitating welcome parties which are themselves a proxy for ragging. Finally there is the blindness that refuses to acknowledge the complicity of student unions in ragging, and the ignorance that takes it for granted that university students who are parasitic on the tax payer for their free education have the right to strike as in the case of workers .

Clearly there is a lot of irrational thinking that needs to be corrected before ragging can be eliminated. That such misconceptions are widespread in academic circles is sad but not surprising. It is likely that a high proportion of academic staff and administrators today have themselves been raggers during their student days ! Is it any wonder that they are not too morally outraged by this problem and are easy prey to the numerous fallacies surrounding it ?

Given the above perspectives any serious attempt to wipe out ragging will necessitate a four pronged approach:

  1. Ragging can be crushed tomorrow if university authorities and academic staff approach the task with a sense of moral outrage and total commitment. That they do not and have fallen prey to various fallacies and misconceptions about this problem needs to be addressed. University authorities must be made legally responsible and face public censure and dismissal for failure to prevent ragging. They must be judged not by their response to ragging when it occurs but by their success in preventing it from occuring. Ragging must everywhere be re-designated as human torture. There must be a policy of zero tolerance. Expulsion must be the mandatory punishment for ragging irrespective of degree. Attitudes to ragging must be an important criterion when academic staff are being recruited and promoted.
  2. Ragging exists because new entrants tamely submit to it. It can be eliminated tomorrow if instead new entrants exercise the simple choice of saying “no” to it. There must be a powerful national plan of “Action to Stimulate Student Empowerment to Resist Torture (ASSERT)” and say “no” to ragging. Such an inspirational program involving education and motivation to say “no” to the indignity of ragging must target students in A’Level classes in schools especially those selected for university admission and their parents. This must be done before they enter university and seniors begin to brainwash them. The ASSERT initiative that has already been tested on a limited scale can be the conceptual basis for such a national programme. Stirring up mass resistance of new entrants to ragging is the key to its elimination.
  3. Strikes by students enjoying free university education must be strictly prohibited by an Act of parliament and the studentship of striking students who thereby fail to meet rigid attendence requirements instantly cancelled. Initiatives to eliminate ragging invariably flounder and fail when the punishment of guilty culprits is met by widespread strikes and disruption forcing university authorities to mitigate if not cancel sentences. This is a familiar and depressing cycle. Strike action is the unique prerogative of workers who are in contract with their employers. It is ludicrous that students who are parasitic on tax payers for their free education should enjoy this privilege. Ragging cannot be effectively dealt with so long as students are allowed to boycott classes in retaliation.
  4. There must be the political will to establish a permanent police presence in all universities. The 1998 Anti Ragging Act must be strenuously applied where even the mildest ragging carries a penalty of up to 2 years rigorous imprisonment.
  5. The present system of university admissions allows too many rowdy students and those with a political agenda unfit for higher education to enter state universities. The system of admission must be re-designed to draw in the best and most intellectually oriented students with the right attitudes who will both resist and desist from ragging. Abolishing the district quota system ( which has now run its course ), and recruiting students on merit alone while restoring a viva voce evaluation, would be significant steps in this direction.

Such measures will inevitably be unpopular in some circles. But that is what it will take to eradicate a depravity that has defiled this country for generations while deforming the personality, eroding the independence and pulping the intellect of the cream of our youth. Given the tough measures that will be required the question is are we serious about eradicating the problem ?

*Professor Asoka N.I. Ekanayaka – Emeritus Professor

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Latest comments

  • 12
    1

    Excellent account. I agree all the way. ‘Zero Tolerance’ is the password and the formula is the 1998 Anti-ragging Act. The authorities must help the police and the law and not side students to be popular and at peace. Accountability and Responsibility must start at the top to make decisions, act towards creating a society of well integrated people. We have an island home where enviable uni education is possible, but few reach the zenith of fulfilment in their lives as others who gain nothing rob their juniors.

  • 9
    1

    There is no such thing as ‘ragging’ a term to mitigate the offence and evoke a lukewarm response. This is plain and simple physical and phycological harassment for which normal law should apply strictly, severely. Intelligence officers disguised as students should be present in University campuses to record evidence and make immediate arrests following which judges should not show any mercy.

    Soma

  • 7
    1

    Let us not forget that this deprave conduct of ragging is not limited to Universities and other institutions of higher education. Even in some schools, notably in well known private schools, all new entrants to rough sport are subject to some ragging and even sexual. This even prevails in some of the rural schools in a different form.

    Implementing the law! My foot! Has the first ever case under the anti ragging law concluded? No. It will take years to do it. The biggest problem in the democratic machine of Sri Lanka is the delay in courts of law. So, the case will be delayed and the invariably when witnesses give evidence after many many years there will be contradictions resulting in the evidence being not credible.

    In fact there are strange twists and turns with delays.In the early 1980’s where the University had degree courses and non-degree courses, a student following a non-degree course attacked another student following a degree course of the same village in deep down south. It was a very small stab injury only just bruising the abdominal area of the victim. But the knife was coated with a poison resulting in the death of the student. After many years almost reaching 1990, the accused was only sentenced 8 years by the High Court. The Court of Appeal in its judgement was very sympathetic to the convict stating that the accused applellant is now gainfully employed and so on and acquitted the accused. If the result for muder is this then what can be said for ragging.

    The tool to impose discipline is the law. But if the implementation of the law has very serious faults then …… May God Help.

  • 5
    1

    Excellent account on this human torture in universities. I hope this will be an eye opener for all vice chancellors/academics. However, I don’t think the creation of an anti-rag group is a solution for this problem because those innocent anti-rag students were thrashed during their entire career in the University. The academics or the administration has been unable to provide protection for them. The students should be encouraged to be together. Peradeniya Agriculture Faculty does the right thing. They do not encourage students to be segregated. But the academic staff take all measures to eradicate this unnecessary verbal and physical harassment (I hate to use the word ragging) I hope all those 15 student thugs will be expelled from university. Although most faculties created anti-rag student groups, the problem is still there. One Dean of a Faculty tried hard to stop ragging and thereby stop segregation of students and it was successful. Student harassment was reduced and the two student groups were united to a certain extent and there were no clashes among the students. Unfortunately his term ended and now that Faculty is back to what it was earlier.

  • 8
    1

    I cannot understand why anybody involved in ragging isn’t expelled immediately. There are plenty of students who missed geting into varsity who will be happy to take their places. I believe it is the political will that is missing. The professors will do nothing because in a country void of justice their jobs depend on the VC. The VC does nothing because his job depends on his political patrons and so on ending up, as always, with Ranil and Sirisena.

    Having done F all for two whole years can this pair at least eliminate this menace to show that they are not on the waiting list for a backbone? Very doubtful!

  • 3
    0

    I whole heartedly agree that no one should be subjected to any physical violence or do anything they object to.

    Most organizations anywhere in the world have initiations, hazing etc. for new comers. The situation is complex and the best is to have unwritten laws for what is expected during a “rag”. As a student of a university I too was ragged . It was mainly verbal abuse and humiliation but in a group and we all had a good laugh at the end of the “ragging season”. Some who did the ragging helped in various ways later. All who were involved are excellent professionals all over the world and have not been scarred for life. I personally never ragged but some in my own group did so in a very benign way. Not everyone has a thick skin and there should be humane student leaders who can detect this and stop in time. There will be psychopaths and sociopaths in the student body and they should be closely monitored.

    The sad truth is many get ragged and also rag when they are seniors but bad incidents are very few. Zero is the ideal but its like not having any accidents in a country. There are tens of thousands of top professionals who have been ragged and it has not affected them in any way.
    I believe the current ragging is a reflection of the corrupt, morally bankrupt society we live in. The whole country needs an adjustment in its mindset. Most are extremely selfish chasing money , power and status sacrificing everyone in their path.

  • 4
    0

    Ragging is not the main issue in low quality public University system: Whole Sri Lankan low quality public University system is full of politically appointed joker VCs. You name any public University in SL, VC is appointed through political contacts. Some Universities already started this appointment campaign even before end of current VC regimes through political connections. Now Moratuwa University full time private sector employed (but he has University also full time fake professorship) this campaign started with help of Southern UNP Minister. Rather helping him to get VC post he must be sacked from the current University job because he is doing full time job in private degree offering college. In overall, Kalaniya University recent VC appointment creates hell of problem there. In general Sri Lankan University professor appointment are hell of corruption. All the professorships given to jokers must be cancelled. In order to be a real international professor your PhD from world top 100 – 500 University, minimum 20 articles in ISI/SCOPUS indexed journals, 10 text books with international publishers and three countries have to appoint you as a Visiting professor. But all these Sri Lankan Professors are jokers and more than 40% University Lecturers are relatives to each others and they give degrees to each other. MY3 clean University system and sack fake professors. Some Dept are family trees. Grandfather Emeritus and all others are relatives, henchmen, lovers, pimps, etc. We well know how they recruits and promoted in University Mafia. First find a person and then advertise according to his/her requirement and send aboard for their friends’ places for PhDs. Go beyond Sri Lankan airport and see International job market. Even in Middle East job market, without PhD from accredited Western University you cannot become even Assistant Lecturer. But in Sri Lanka more than 99% professors do not have PhDs from world recognised Universities. The countries they (University teachers) go to do higher studies, no person is going to studies: China, Malaysia and India.

  • 5
    1

    BRAVO ANNI I AM WITH YOU ALL THE WAY BUT SADLY WHAT CAN POOR ME DO
    AGAINST THIS MAFIA OF HOOLIGANISM WHICH HAS PERVADES OUR ENTIRE SOCIETY AND
    WHERE THE POWERS THAT BE “BURY THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND “

  • 4
    1

    Ragging is depraved conduct. Period.

    However, it is symptomatic of much else that is wrong with our society. It is not going to be easy to put a complete stop to it, although the effort is laudable.

    The widening rich – poor gap, the hiatus between the rural and the urban, all are to blame.

    The irony is that those who suffer most are probably girls and boys from the poorest backgrounds. Well, the yuppy types now consider our National Universities not worthy of them. Some of them DO come in, and then squeal the loudest, although they’ve hardly been touched.

    The raggers are usually cowards who avoid getting in to serious confrontation with “freshers” who may possibly have influence. Rather like the average traffic cop.

  • 6
    1

    Ragging is inferiority complex, Sado -masochsitiac, jealousy, lack of empathy.

    It should be banned, senior students should be warned and punished.

    • 1
      0

      “Banning” is easy.

      Only drives things underground.

      I repeat that this problem is complex; repeating the same manthram every year is NOT a solution.

      I do not know THE solution. I can certainly think of some ways of reducing the effects of this evil.

    • 1
      3

      ragging is originated by Sinhalese universities. then it spread to Tamil universities. Sinhalese are inherently violent people and have inferiority complex that they stupider than Tamils. NOBODY CAN PROVE THAT THIS CUSTOM IS ORIGINATED IN TAMIL UNIVERSITIES IN SRILANKA

      • 3
        1

        AJ what you say is a bit contradictory.

        I don’t think that the Sinhalese and the Tamils are so genetically different.

        Never mind where this originated – why on earth were the “Tamil Universities” (that’s a new and unhealthy classification!) so foolish as to copy?

        Let’s try to get these awful things eliminated. I didn’t say “stamp out” since that sounds too harsh and violent. I know that some “raggers” are absolute sadistic perverts, but our own approach has to be more nuanced.

        Prof. ANIE is a good man, but yes, he is lacking in certain social insights, and sounds elitist and extreme right wing when he suggests solutions.

        I’m not going to make a detailed study of the history of ragging, but it’s long, and took many different forms. I was myself at Peradeniya, but there were even more serious issues in May 1983:

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/university-of-peradeniya-may-1983-when-majesty-stoops-to-folly/

        • 0
          0

          I am endorsing dragging. But it originated from Sinhala universities and spread to north. You make it sound like I am endorsing the culture.

        • 0
          0

          Sinhalese and Tamils are genetically similar but not same. You didn’t explain how it is contradictory. We don’t have similar genes to Tamils but definitely not same. Tamils didn’t even have a university in 1983 and Peredeniya is not a Tamil university.

          • 1
            0

            Surely there was a university in Jaffna before 1983. I seem to remember that Sinhala staff and students were sent down to Colombo from Jaffna at the time of the 1977 communal clashes. Also my husband was transferred overnight to the Jaffna university (or maybe it was still just a campus) by the new Min of Education Nissanka Wijeratne, at the behest of an ambitious, unprincipled Kelaniya university don who two years earlier had tried to sabotage my husband getting a university post in the first place. At that time the don was an ardent SLFPer. In 1977 he jumped aboard the UNP band wagon, speaking on its election campaign platforms & was rewarded by being made President of the campus and ejecting the object of his enmity

          • 0
            0

            AJ, I think you are mistaken when you say that ” We don’t have similar genes to Tamils but definitely not same”. When Vijaya the crook and a thug landed in SL, there were people living in this island.The term “Yakka” is a creation by later recorders of distorted history. If Kuveni and her people were Yakkas, no way could Vijaya and his thugs eliminate Kuveni’s people . The actual yakka would have had a fancy meal out of them. “Viajaya La Carte.
            The story that Sinhalese are the product of a laision between a Lion and a woman is also false.The lion will mount the woman, not the other way about.Could a human being hold the weight of a Lion. I say NO.Secondly the lion has a fairly long penis, if he penetrated a woman, that penis would have penetrated upto her diaphragm at least, damaging all the organs on the way.She would not have survived that sexual experience.

            However I believe that Vijaya and his thugs killed all the inhabitants of this country – at least in that area.The 700 princes that is said to have been brought down had to be Indian prostitutes and both the present day Tamils and the present day Sinhalese are the product of those prostitutes.

            Their DNA has to be same.So far no body had compared the DNA of the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

            There is further evidence that the Sinhalese and the Tamils are of one origin.Dutugemunu’s father was named Kakkai Vannan Theesan, ( the so called Kavantissa) there are remnants of Hindu culture present in the South even tioday.

      • 1
        0

        Ragging Originated in England. The Term Ragging is NOT a Sinhalese term. It was a BAD feature of the Universities which we got from the British Empire. It is there even in Indian and Bangladeshi Universities which are also of British Heritage.
        In America, Ragging is called Hazing.

        Read Tom Brown’s school days. Tom when to Rugby school, and there the senior students put the freshers into a “Rag”, and bounce them in it.
        This is where the term Rag – ging originated.

        I hope the Tamils and Sinhalese Stop slinging mud at each other, and focus on the real issues.

  • 2
    0

    Wonder about the marginal difference between ragging and bullying starting from school days .Having fun by belittling another is just abuse if it happened in anywhere else other than in these higher Education centers .I agree with this Professor on all counts but I do not see how the maintenance of the district quota for admission lead to ragging for such quota systems exist in many democratic countries when resources are not distributed equally.We have to tap the emotionally intelligent who adjust to life at a higher education shedding the hang ups of high school culture or may be much more could be done to develop the emotional side of our students who are now trained to just pass exams. there is something spooky about our school culture that churn minds of this nature.

    • 1
      0

      You display “uncertainty” about the validity of your own analysis.

      A very HEALTHY state of mind that few have the courage or honesty to display.

  • 0
    0

    The article and the comments that followed take the approach of “Punishment” and strict “Enforcement” of disciplinary and punitive action to stop this menace of “Ragging” I differ on that approach. I did not expect a “Professor” to say the least at item No. 5, thus: “The present system of University admission allows many rowdy students with political agenda unfit for higher education to enter state Universities”. I think you must feel ashamed of yourself while been in the highest level of academic status for making that statement.. Has anyone seriously think who are these University students are? In my opinion they are a set of “Promising”, “Energetic”. “Talented”, “Charismatic” group of young persons on whom the country has to have hopes of building a formidable force to meet the on coming challenges for our development. Then our main task is to nurture and build that brigade for future use. Do we do that? NO. Why? The University administration itself has failed in that pursuit. These are highly energetic resources that must be used in the day to day functions within the University, giving them the FEEL of WANTED and RECOGNIZED. If that initial, initiative is not taken, they naturally fall a prey to the vultures waiting outside, viz the Political Organizations. The Student Unions must be re-named as “Student Associations” and those must be made a part and parcel of the University Administrative Machinery, through a “Consultative Mechanism”. Their talents, energies and character must be made visible and deployed to portray the stature and character of the Universities, preventing outside elements making use of such strengths to benefit their agenda. An open door policy is needed to attract this young energetic talents and treat them at all times as a RESOURCE available to be made use of. To do that present day University Administration “CULTURE” has to undergo a complete overhaul and a change. From the very day of entry give them a feel of RECOGNITION and treat them accordingly without being treated as “Rowdies” unfit for University education. What that CHANGE must be is too exhaustive to spell out here. Simply I say a COMPLETE CHANGE must take place.

    • 0
      0

      I agree absolutely with you, Douglas.

      However, let us, while recognising the latent snobbery of Prof. ANIE, be grateful that he has not ignored what he has seen.

      He’s an honest man.

      Yes, we’ve got to get the rowdies in, and then reform them! Difficult, we know.

      A parallel situation? Our parliament full of corrupt rowdies.

  • 1
    0

    Where are the human rights boys and girls, when it comes to this painful ragging exercise? Why don’t they go after those responsible for the physical assault? Aren’t there enough laws?

    For crying out loud… DO NOT make these laws… unless you are determined to ENFORCE them to the letter 24/76! If you do that for a few years this curse will vanish for good. That will be day Sri Lankans can brag about a disciplined society.

  • 2
    4

    We can’t discount the positive and constructive social effects of ragging. It seems to be quite a normal endeavor that is allowed in almost all colleges and universities around the world. It binds society together in some weird way, for the sake of national values. It should be done, however, within a structured content and with regulation and law-enforcement. And not year round, but at key times, like initiating new students. Or within sororities and fraternities within the universities.

    In Sri Lanka, it makes new students aware of the humdrum of everyday life of the struggling masses. It instills a certain humility on students away from individualistic tendencies. Ragging forces them to relate to Buddhist cultural concepts of Dukkha and Anatma, and helps binds all with a national identity.

    • 2
      0

      Very wrong, RTF, in an innocent sort of way.

      You don’t live here, you’ve not been in a Sri Lankan University. This phenomenon is horrible.

      You are being very theoretical. I’m not blaming you, but it is dangerous to comment on things empirical without having first hand experience.

      • 3
        1

        In US too, torture and rape happen at times with hazing. I have heard and read the stories, and seen the footage of the raggings in Sri Lanka. Unlike other places, it is a mass carnival of ragging. As I said, it needs to be regulated, structured, and have law enforcement around at those times. In the end, ragging and hazing of a country is an indicator of the rights and wrongs of the country, and what the country needs to change to make it a better functioning democracy.

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      We of the Pera University always defended this trend of ragging looking at the positive that those who ragged made life long friends with those who were ragged .Well there was the exception to the rule even back in the late 50s or early sixties with a smaller student population . when the cream of the intelligentsia they said was there to read for higher learning . A student from a very religious background was pointed out to me as a misfit who suffered after a bout of ragging the previous year . ,A very broken person who could not last more than a few months tho’ allowed to come back after losing an year .Did he outlive his ordeal ? Did he achieve his aspirations? I ask my self these questions every time I read about a student subjected to ragging for I never forget that face lost in this Paradise of gardens and architecture .. Is this the only case study ?One too many for me.Were there others ? I never knew .. Much much later in the 70s went I went back to college this time in Colombo for Post Grad studies I I witnessed a girl on all fours being commanded by Seniors to worship them .Yes at REID avenue and very publicly too .A father was on the road dressed in white and I saw his distress to witness girls being treated this manner ,Yes I walked past him and went straight in to protest to the authorities with another friend .I did not follow up on this story but rushed in to my lecture ..Now how can we talk of the positives? We were ragged with water pistols and that was fun in the female halls ok a positive of getting attention may be .. but the bucketing at the Male halls did not use such pure water was the proud boast . All in ‘good fun’ not for the victim . We never verified we never protested for we went with the flow . ..Is this the sum total of not stopping something when we could ..I am sad for that lonely person who is struggling to cope with this welcome to the Highest Portal of learning after years of slogging to make the grade ..Zero tolerance sometimes help those who stretch the ethics of social life .

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      “Positive and social effects of ragging”! Please list the positive effects of the type of ragging that goes on in our universities! I am horrified to read this.

      And it is not true that it goes on (at least in the form it takes here) all over the world. There was no rag in my university University College, London, in the 1960s. And in many places the term “ragging” often denoted a get-together on the streets to collect money for a good cause or a social where new and old students got to know each other.

      It is utterly shameful that humiliating, cruel and perverted ragging persists despite efforts to stop it. I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and all university staff and students should be aware of this.

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      Ramona, you are talking B.S. again.I was ragged at peradeniya in 1962. The rag consisted of (i) Repairing a rubber slipper of a person who later became a Prof. having dips in the hall pond.They were not unpleascent and a regular but unexpected shout- you bloody fresher from what night school did you come.There were two other systems one of which I was subjected to – one morning when I was getting ready to go for lectures there was horrific banging on the door of the room where I was. Opened the door to find a HONOURABLE SENIOR, who later became another Prof spitting the most foul language.- That was disgusting.The last which I was not a witness was a funny set up.On the last day of the rag, after dinner, the freshers were asked to come to a particular room.Across the room was a curtain stretching the whole length with one peep hole.The freshers were asked to take a peep through the peep hole.Alas what he is said to have seen was a Honourable Senior’s private parts exposed.
      That definitely created a sort of friendship.However I hardly spoke to the Fouls mouthed guy during the whole of my stay there and not later either when i see him on the road.

      What goes as rag today is pure Sadism, connected with political parties with no foothold on the society.

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    Definition :make fun of (someone) in a loud, boisterous manner.

    arrest the torture, not the bonding. you people will not understand what a university is unless u were a part of it. if u do a part, u must pathetic and anti social if u try to condemn the process.

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    Well said Prof Ekanayake. As a lone crusader against ragging at the University of Peradeniya he was intimidated, abused and threatened. He was considered as a headache by the University authorities and an eccentric who is fighting for an unnecessary cause. Yet his legacy will live amongst the memory of antiraggers who do far better academically and perhaps later in their professions than the raggers. This is a case of human torture and a gross violation of human rights. Where are all those NGOs involved in the protection of Human rights. It is a tragedy that they are deaf and blind to a malaise affecting the entire cream of youth who study in the universities.

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      Prof. Ekanayake was intimidated not because he was against ragging. He was a great UNP politician. That’s way he was threatened by student unions. In fact he did nothing viable to stop the menace of ragging. He supported certain class of students in the Dental faculty in the name of anti-ragging just like certain other academics did in their respective faculties.

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    Just suppose Gotabhaya was appointed minister of Education and he decides to ban ragging. Don’t you think he would achieve his goal? The moment he announces his policy, raggers will start to think twice. Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Rajapakses but Gota will deliver the goods, by white van or not.

    How is this possible? Gota has the political will to complete the job, other politicians do not.

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    ragging is originated by Sinhalese universities. then it spread to Tamil universities. Sinhalese are inherently violent people and have inferiority complex that they stupider than Tamils. NOBODY CAN PROVE THAT THIS CUSTOM IS ORIGINATED IN TAMIL UNIVERSITIES IN SRI Lanka

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      … and Tamils being smarter, committed even worse atrocities on fellow Tamils.
      Is it correct?

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        correct

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    Atticus: Like you there many who believe “Gota” is the only answer to curb violence and bring in an orderly society. I see three positives for that capability: (1) Gota is one among at least two others from the same family who are very well known to be “Thugs” and “Crooks”. (2) Gota has that immature “Army” mentality having served in the armed forces. (3) Gota had nothing to fear, when your bother is the “President” of the country and the other brother (Basil) was virtually the “de facto” Vice President , a proven crook and a thug. That is how he (Gota) managed to take any figure under his back and call and if any refused, he saw to it that such persons will not live long to tell the tale. Evidence of such operations are now unfolding. So this man called “Gota” is a mixed character of “immature stubbornness” mixed with a huge dose of “ego” driven vision. Such people are the WORST to be trusted and CROWNED with power in Governing a country under either Democracy or even Dictatorial type. Hitler was a good example.

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      Douglas, in an ideal situation you are right, but desperate times need desperate measures. Perhaps Gota on a leash would do but who would hold the leash?

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        Atticus, you just dont GET Douglas, do you?

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          Nobody does but Gota might!

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            Prof. Ekanayake,There are more positive measures that can be taken, which are not harsh that can be taken to control the rags.
            (i) When C.W.W.Kannagara created the free education system what he meant was that the education should be free.He did not specify how long.Why not get all those who enter the Universities to pay back to the Govt the cost of the education they had obtained, off their pay checks.- A sort of post paid system.To implement the Govt will have to posses a perfect system of documentation. It can start with the Electoral list. After all, those that enter the Universities are above 18 yrs.If they have not listed in the electoral register, they should be denied admission to the University.There would be a standard cost for the 3yrs,4yrs or 5yrs course and any failures should be charged an additional figure on pro rata basis.

            (ii) All final examinations should be conducted in English. This is important. I have met many people in the administrative service with knowledge, PR, and speaking ability of apes.This is because their reading is limited and their knowledge of the world is limited.During my time at Peradeniya, there was one faculty where lecture hours was limited ti 1-2 hrs per week. They had volumes to read.This will also make it possible to standardize the quality of the Degree, with the support of External Examiners.

            Furthermore these Graduates will have the whole world to seek employment and not expect the Govt to provide jobs.

            Prof, there is one problem that you have not dealt with.Some Academicians are accused of helping students – relationships, sexual bribes etc.There is at least one instance of a student who later got a first class have performed fellatio on the Prof.( please do not call for details). This will go a long way in eliminating such accusations – The external examiner will do that.

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            Gota, tried and failed.He used the tried and failed system, expecting that when the freshers were at the army camp over a 2-3 week period they will build up enough friendship to stand together and resist.

            He miscerably under estimated the Sinhala Buddhist chikanery!

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    Ragging?

    First lets define this.
    My definition is simply this; Ragging is where Freshman are subjected to indignities;
    Catch the Seniors who are responsible for this,Horse-Whip them and then sack them from the University!
    The problem is solved!

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      I’ve always hated “ragging” so much, that I’d be happy if this can be done!

      But you may notice that I’ve been agonising over this in my comments above! Another question is whether we can get a consensus on this and see it through. The problem for me is that some efforts are made, and then it is all dropped, and we are have seen the most committed losing credibility.

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    Sri Lankans do not have to tolerate this criminal behaviour of a few students, while providing free education, spending public money.

    Pass a bill authorising to have a police post on each campus, make the presence known and enforce the law, hunting down any culprit relentlessly.

    It’s very unfortunate that there are a quite a number of qualified students who shun the universities due to ragging.

    If we cannot face and solve this very basic problem, how can we seriously achieve higher, more difficult goals?

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    The use of a torture chamber by the senior students of the Faculty of Agriculture clearly shows that Ragging is physical & mental torture. At a gathering of some alumni of the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, the question was asked whether they will consider sending their daughters to any of the established universities in Sri Lanka. Everyone said that they will never consider sending their daughters to a Sri Lankan University because of the ragging.

    The right to education without physical or mental torture is a Human Right. If the Supreme Court overturns the decision of the Appeal Court, instructing the Medical Council of Sri Lanka to recognize the MBBS degrees awarded by SAITEM,, these students and their parents can file a fundamental rights case. .

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    There is physical abuse and there is verbal abuse (often gender based).
    They should both be addressed.
    Even the least politically influenced Vice Chancellors have failed. Thus, explanations are not simple.
    Every major tragedy causes a huge national uproar, and soon after all is forgotten

    I know well how students sought to protect a culprit who was identified in the late 1999’s and taken to court in connection with a killing.
    The case dragged on the culprit responsible for a death escaped from the country.
    When students are punished for wrongdoing, fellow students, including victims, and the Students’ Union come to their rescue.

    One reason why a professor in professional Peradeniya and a few of his colleagues were unpopular in the 1970’s and 1980’s was because they actually caught bullying even in its mildest form in the faculty premises and in a hall of residence and got the culprits punished. I will not name him because I do not want to revive attacks on him.
    Amid tons of speech, those few deeds comprised the few ounces of action.

    I should also commend the courage of the anti-rag group of students who battled hard in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s against bullying.

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    Prof. Ekanayake,There are more positive measures that can be taken, which are not harsh that can be taken to control the rags.
    (i) When C.W.W.Kannagara created the free education system what he meant was that the education should be free.He did not specify how long.Why not get all those who enter the Universities to pay back to the Govt the cost of the education they had obtained, off their pay checks.- A sort of post paid system.To implement the Govt will have to posses a perfect system of documentation. It can start with the Electoral list. After all, those that enter the Universities are above 18 yrs.If they have not listed in the electoral register, they should be denied admission to the University.There would be a standard cost for the 3yrs,4yrs or 5yrs course and any failures should be charged an additional figure on pro rata basis.

    (ii) All final examinations should be conducted in English. This is important. I have met many people in the administrative service with knowledge, PR, and speaking ability of apes.This is because their reading is limited and their knowledge of the world is limited.During my time at Peradeniya, there was one faculty where lecture hours was limited ti 1-2 hrs per week. They had volumes to read.This will also make it possible to standardize the quality of the Degree, with the support of External Examiners.

    Furthermore these Graduates will have the whole world to seek employment and not expect the Govt to provide jobs.

    Prof, there is one problem that you have not dealt with.Some Academicians are accused of helping students – relationships, sexual bribes etc.There is at least one instance of a student who later got a first class have performed fellatio on the Prof.( please do not call for details). This will go a long way in eliminating such accusations – The external examiner will do that.

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    Any form of ragging should be defined and treated as a criminal offence.

    Place CCTV cameras to collect evidence (to be handed over to police for investigations). Ask any person to report to Police hot lines. Hand over any matter to the police to deal as a usual criminal case. For-ragging students are opposing CCTV camera installations in the universities. Therefore, they also should be charged for supporting ragging. Any university administration who does not take adequate steps to report to police and to collect evidence also should be charged for supporting ragging.

    Amend university by-laws to say that anyone being charged (having a court case) for ragging will have studentship suspended, and it will be terminated once convicted. Since this is an internal university by-law matter, this can be done immediately, if the administration and staff are willing. Two states of “suspended” and “terminated” are for allowing space for remedies in case false reporting happens. Culprits will first get suspended and then terminated. Some innocent students also may get suspended due to false reporting, but will not go into suspension. This type of deficiencies are inevitable even in other laws, but we need it to eradicate this menace.

    Steps for eradicating ragging is easy. It’s a matter of enforcement, which depends on law enforcement entities (such as Police), Government and university authorities.

    If the law can be used to punish an uneducated person on the road for beating another one, why cannot the same be applied on a university student who has a higher intellectual capacity? In fact they should be punished more as they are supposed to have better ability to discern right from wrong than an uneducated person.

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    Small correction:

    In the 3rd para, it should be corrected as “Some innocent students also may get suspended due to false reporting, but will not go into termination.”

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