Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life After Aman Kachroo

The Aman Kachroo case was truly a landmark in the fight against ragging because it was after the verdict that society at large began to take a far more serious view against ragging. Even the previous judgement against ragging did not have the power of the Aman Kachroo case.

The Raghavan Committee formed after the case and the consequent UGC guidelines marked a major shift in the way ragging was dealt with: the onus of proof now lay on the accused, while the responsibility to take the case to its just conclusion was put on the institute. In effect, authorities who were secretly supporting ragging were forced to toe the line and enforce anti-ragging rules.

The Flip Side
However, the new guidelines have not been implemented universally yet. While almost all central institutions have implemented some of the guidelines, most state institutions and some private institutions have not done so. Most of the latter have not made signing the anti-ragging affidavits mandatory, while virtually none of the former have implemented some guidelines such a dining with freshers in the mess and conducting cultural events to help freshers blend in.

Also, ragging has now gone underground, taking place in secret and relying purely on fear to hide itself. In hostels, seniors come in and turn off the lights almost immediately to prevent their faces from being seen clearly, while in non-residential institutes it takes places either in dark nooks and crannies inside the campus or in fairly deserted places (such as parks) outside the campus. In both cases, security guards tend to bungle up their job and seniors try to protect themselves by warning the juniors not to 'tell anybody,' or face 'worse.' Often, this works because freshers just don't trust the authorities to protect them.

Denial of Privileges
Another, more subtle, manifestation of ragging happens in residential institutions. In these places, it is common for recreation facilities to be controlled directly or indirectly by a senior student. Although it depends on the senior in question, many-a-times freshers are denied usage of these facilities. They are curtly told, "you can't play here/use this."

According to the UGC guidelines, this act also constitutes ragging but goes on completely unchecked. The reason is simple: either the senior student has a great deal of autonomy or has been allowed that autonomy by a faculty member who would rather not do the work assigned to them. What the senior says is virtually law and even if a complaint is filed, it would be next to impossible to prove it.

Thus, this last point, that of denial of facilities and privileges to freshers, would be the ultimate test to see how far we've actually gone in curbing the anti-social practice. And I'm confident that if the UGC Guidelines are followed in earnest, this can be achieved in the near future.

Next: A Few Suggestions

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