Friday, October 22, 2010

The Law is in mere Words

The year the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in the Aman Kachroo Case and appointed the Raghavan Committee, winds of change could be felt blowing strongly through India's colleges. As soon as the academic year started, affidavits were filed and reports came pouring in from all over the country of students being suspended or even expelled for ragging freshers.

That effect, I am sad to say, has begun to wear off. It is typical Indian behaviour to care about a law only when somebody is watching. In this case, it was the fear of those affidavits being put to use that stemmed (not stopped) ragging last year. But this year is different: there were few complaints. Whatever were made were made in extreme circumstances. It became clear that by simply tweaking circumstances, it is possible to continue ragging freshers and making sure that they do not complain.

Predictable Plot
It's not very hard to find out how it works. Colleges are complicit in this, although there is very little they themselves can do. The first step is to create an illusion of safety: security guards at every other corner; banners outlining the punishment for ragging; phone numbers of the who's who of the institution; and of course, the dire warnings given to senior students that if they cross the line, they would face no mercy.

It lasts for a week or two. Then, the facade begins to chip away. The security guards can be caught napping; the banners either disappear or just add to the decoration; the who's who no longer cares, and neither do the seniors. And so it begins. In residential institutes, hostels are the prime place: security does not matter because a criminal determined to break the law will find ways to get around the law enforcers (and there are plenty of ways). In other institutes, ragging takes place outside the campus, usually in quiet areas.

The most amazing effect can be seen here at this point: although there is an anti-ragging helpline and a written complaint will really be seen as an FIR, the freshers themselves choose to keep quiet. They bear the humiliation, pretending that they are laughing it all off, while accumulating a deep desire for revenge in themselves, to be blown of next year. And the cycle continues.

Why do freshers keep quiet? Well, that's because freshers are actually quite similar to their seniors: they too want to have 'fun' with their freshers, they too want to indulge in the crime. The only way for them to do so is to suffer it themselves and then do worse the next year. No wonder, you can actually find freshers who rag other freshers: the more impatient lot!

What of the Law?
The law is meaningless unless enforced. The Supreme Court has been left as a great big joke as nobody seems to care for what it has to say. Some go to the extent of declaring the the Court made the Aman Kachroo verdict under media pressure and that its guidelines were never supposed to be followed! Really, when teenagers start passing judgment on the Supreme Court's judgment, it seems difficult to see how we can call ourselves a country that has any rule of law.

Next: The Extraneous Factors

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