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Vivid memories of the first day of college live on. The excitement of stepping into a new, crucial phase of life was at its peak. But so was a nail-biting nervousness over the ragging we could face. We were a motley group of freshers trying to escape the prying eyes of seniors who were looking out for their ‘preys’ on Day 1! But we failed. Our ordeal ended only once we danced publicly in a marketplace. In hindsight, I’d say we were lucky. Not many face the same fate when they transition from a cocooned and protective school environment into the more competitive college milieu. They face worse. The perils of ragging are once again in the spotlight after an 18-year-old Odisha girl left behind a suicide note, claiming depression arising out of ragging and torture by her seniors.
Ragging has earned its share of notoriety and more as an unwelcome practice to welcome a new set of students to college life. The ugly face of ragging and its impact on mental health have been far too pronounced in the recent past. Just three months ago, a first-year MBBS student of Haryana died by suicide after facing alleged torture by his seniors.
In India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been making strides to curb the menace of ragging in higher education institutions across the nation, with a 24*7 anti-ragging helpline, an online process for submission of complaints, and more.
Still, 2021 media reports citing UGC data claim a total of 2,790 complaints had been reported since 2018.
Ragging, according to the UGC, is defined as any conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which:
* Has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any other student
* Indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities or which is likely to cause anyone annoyance, hardship or psychological harm
* Raising fear or apprehension in a fresher or a junior student
* Asking the students to do any act or perform something which such student will not do in the ordinary course
* Urging students to do any act which causes or generates a sense of shame of embarrassment
* Adversely affecting the physique or psyche of a fresher or student.
Yet, cases of ragging occur, dimming the light of bright and young minds in college. Ragging can leave the mind with a dent, whether it is through psychological or physical torture.
The latest incident spurred even Olympian Dutee Chand to make a startling revelation about being a victim of ragging. In an interview, she has spoken about how seniors during her stay at the Sports Hostel in Bhubaneswar from 2006-08, harassed her.
“Didis (seniors) used to force me to massage their bodies and wash their clothes at the Sports Hostel,” she told PTI, adding how she even faced adverse comments on her finances. And when she complained, she herself faced the brunt.
“It used to take a mental toll on me. I was helpless at that time,” Chand added.
Ragging, when it becomes a humiliating, degrading, aggressive and negative experience, can impact an individual’s mental health in many ways, says senior psychologist Dr Kamna Chhibber.
A specialist in handling mental health cases related to relationships, trauma and abuse, she tells Health Shots, “Ragging can affect moods, lead to anxiousness, negatively impact the (concept of) self of the individual, make them feel worthless and helpless, cause experiences of insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns.”
Additionally, facing the horrors of insensitive ragging can also impact the ways in which an individual may approach college life, causing them to be “tentative and apprehensive in place of experiencing the joy and happiness” of going through a new and different phase of life.
Even bullying at workplace needs to be taken seriously.
Yes, ragging can be debilitating, but awareness and preparedness can sometimes be the armour you may need.
“As a young person it is important to approach such situations with an understanding and knowledge of what redressal mechanisms are available to be able to tackle an uncomfortable situation in the college,” explains Dr Chhibber.
Secondly, it is important not to shield the bullies because of a cloud of fear on your head.
“Talking about and sharing what the experiences are is crucial so that if there is a traumatic experience, the coping is not compromised. This will also help the person to engage in healthy ways of working through the situation,” the expert suggests.
“It is important to focus on what you can control and accept the emotional experiences that you would have,” she adds.
Most importantly, build and maintain a support system that helps you manage yourself and your experiences. Your parents, your siblings and your friends are always your inner circle and you should be open to them about any issues you face in life.
Ragging is a social evil that needs to be uprooted. People need to stop indulging in ragging even under the veil of a ‘fun induction’ because it has crossed the threshold and instilled a sense of fear among people. Let fresh minds get stronger, not weaker!