Death Due To Ragging- Punish The Culprits

Prof. O. A. Illeperuma

This week, a student at the Institute of technology, University of Moratuwa at Homagama committed suicide because of the mental and physical harassment during ragging he received at this Institute. This student had earlier been at the University of Jaffna where he was continuously beaten up for nearly six months and he was transferred to the Homagama Institute. There too, he was severely beaten up for several weeks and when he could not take it any longer, he decided to take his life. Who is responsible for this heinous crime? What can be done to relieve the extreme mental agony of the grieving parents? Is there any action taken by the authorities to punish the culprits? The only solution this Institute had to offer is to close the Institute. If the top administrators of a higher educational institution cannot run these places, they should resign and give way for a capable person to run the Institute.  This is not the first time such a thing has happened and will not be the last. I am personally aware of some students who left after joining the universities due to severe ragging taking place at our state universities. It is worthwhile for authorities such as the UGC to carry out a study to see the number of students leaving their courses due to ragging. What is pathetic is the deafening silence of the authorities who turn a blind eye to this type of inhumane treatment of first year students.  Of course, the children of politicians send their children abroad for higher studies and this does not affect them.

Our universities are expected to be the highest seats of learning, however, for many they are more akin to torture chambers.
Our universities are expected to be the highest seats of learning, however, for many they are more akin to torture chambers.

It is well known that ragging is a highly organised activity with the student unions led by a political party who have no followers among the general public but seek to enhance their followers in universities through this type of activity. Student leaders are trained at safe houses on how to rag the incoming first year students by these bankrupt political parties to further their political objectives. The Government too should take this as a matter of national priority and even have a debate in the parliament about how to stop ragging in the universities. Since the UGC and the Vice chancellors have failed in their duty to stop the menace of ragging, the parliament should understand the gravity of this situation and take some meaningful measures. There should be novel and innovative ways to identify the culprits and take appropriate legal action since we already have a powerful anti-ragging act in force.

Universities are run by vice chancellors appointed by the president and what is required for such appointment is an affiliation to the ruling party or a personal friendship to influential politicians. Once appointed, they do not want to take action against raggers out of fear for strikes and other disruptions in the universities. They are not appointed on their academic credentials and there is no chance for a senior academic without the necessary political connections to become the vice chancellor. Every Vice chancellor is scared of taking action against student union leaders who are directly responsible for ragging. Even when the raggers are caught red handed the Vice Chancellors do not take any action or hand them over to the police to be charged by the anti-ragging act. Rarely, Vice Chancellors take action as in the Wayamba university and the student body is on a continuous strike trying to get this decision reversed.  Most Vice chancellors do not take action against raggers because they want to show their political masters that everything goes on smoothly at their universities.  The other academic staff members are equally scared of doing anything against ragging and look the other way even when they see inhuman ragging. They know that the Vice Chancellors do not take their side even if they report such acts to the higher authorities which will make them the laughing stock.

Ragging creates a graduate population who cannot think straight, have no originality in their ideas since they depend entirely on the student leaders to take the decisions on their behalf. When there are student strikes, students are utterly clueless of what they are fighting for since it is the student union leaders who take all the decisions. This is detrimental to the development of the country and this is also the reason why the private sector is weary of hiring them.  Instead, they prefer graduates from the numerous private sector universities where there is no such inhuman ragging. If the Universities cannot cope up with these barbaric acts of senior students it is even worthwhile appointing competent authorities from the military sector to maintain discipline in the universities.

Where are all the NGOs and even government organisations such as the Human Rights Commission championing for human rights? They simply seem averse to such barbaric acts of human torture and seem to look after the interests of only people in police custody. From past experience, they will simply turn a blind eye to this gross violation of human rights and it is up to the government to take meaningful steps to curb this curse before we hear of another death due to ragging.

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