K. Santhosh

Kerala society has failed to deal with the causes of ragging: psychiatrist

Spate of complaints of ragging

‘Suppressed sexuality major cause’

Thrissur: Several cases of ragging reported recently in the State point to the increasing brutalisation of campuses.

The latest is the case of a student who was allegedly ragged at the Kerala Agricultural University’s College of

Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Mannuthy. Five senior students allegedly ragged a junior. The victim was admitted to a hospital with injuries on October 22 after he allegedly slashed his wrist. On October 23, the police registered a case against the accused.

On October 29, the Peramangalam police registered a case against two second-semester MBBS students of Amala Medical College in Amala Nagar on the basis of a complaint from two first-semester students that they were allegedly ragged.

Authorities of the Vidya Academy at Thalakottukara suspended five senior students from the college for allegedly ragging a junior. The police registered a case against them on October 31.

On a complaint by the Registrar of Cochin University of Science and Technology that a few seniors ragged B.Tech first-semester students, the Kalamassery police have registered a case.

A case registered in Kottayam on November 12, 2005, relating to rape of a first-year woman nursing student by six senior students is still fresh in the minds of the people of the State.

“Society has largely been unable to deal with the causes of ragging.

“This annual occurrence in educational institutions has fed on the anxieties, fears and frustration of youth. Perpetrators of this vicious cycle of violence get a rare taste of power and wild exhilaration of exploring the forbidden. This year’s victims are next year’s offenders,” says K.S. Shaji, psychiatrist with the Government Medical College Hospital at Mulankunnathukavu here.

According to CURE (Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education), 60 per cent of ragging cases involves physical assault and 20 per cent sexual harassment.

“Sex is one of the important forms of inter-gender and intra-gender power games. The element of sexuality in ragging cannot be ignored,” says Praveen Lal, psychiatrist and Principal of the Government Medical College here.

Mental health experts say that ragging can be curbed only if society has a proper perspective of the dynamics of teenage violence and sexuality.

“Kerala society is yet to deal with issues such as suppressed sexuality and aggression.

New models of aggression and sexuality in the media attract teenagers.

Lack of closeness and warmth in families pushes youth to anarchy and rebellion, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Most youth subcultures encourage students to rebel and do illegal things. Every parent has the shock of his life when his well-adjusted child behaves strangely after entering college,” says Dr. Shaji.

Aggressive behaviour

At the same time, aggressive behaviour cannot be seen as entirely negative, mental health experts say.

It can be viewed as a normal means for competing and negotiating within groups and not as a fundamentally anti-social instinct.

“Understanding this can help men keep their aggression under control and use it for positive means.

Healthy competition and sportsmanship represent positive aggression,” says S.V. Subramaniam, Nodal Officer of the District Mental Health Programme.

A seven-member committee appointed by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development, on a directive by the Supreme Court, had proposed inclusion of ragging as a special section under the Indian Penal Code. An interim order of the Supreme Court on May 16, 2007, based on the recommendations, makes it obligatory for academic institutions to file official First Information Reports with the police in any instance of a complaint of ragging.

This is to ensure that all cases will be formally investigated under criminal judicial system and not by ad hoc bodies of educational institutions.

“Ragging cannot be dismissed as fun. It is a serious form of human rights abuse,” says Dr. Praveen Lal.