Let’s Talk About Ragging, Shall We?

Ragging has been an inescapable part of college culture in Kerala for decades. From comedic scenes in our movies to real-life experiences, many of us have several accounts of ragging to talk about – some relatively funny and pleasant, and some…quite the opposite.

It’s 2020. Has the time not come to rethink such campus activities? Has the time not come to maybe analyse their roots?

From juniors being made to do silly things, to physical violence and torture, ragging persists in several forms. It escapes the eyes of many or is simply overlooked as ‘part of the culture’, even when it is blatantly visible in the form of catcalling and stalking. If you really think about it, our movies do not do societal progress a favour when they romanticise or downplay the effects of ragging.

Many of us know that it is, in fact, wrong. What about when it’s not ‘severe’, though? What about the times when you’re just intimidating your juniors a little to get a reaction, or for a temporary, false sense of superiority? Are those instances bad too? There are several ways in which people defend the act of ragging, and now, we debunk typical statements of justification that are commonly heard on a college campus.

Ragging helps seniors be friends with juniors.

Here’s a hard pill to swallow – if you wanted to be friends with your juniors, you would try to do that, and only that. Kindness is easy. If you want to be nice and establish a friendship, you can do that straight away. Getting to know them should not involve intimidation, violence, making them sing or dance, making them do your work or enacting ridiculous things (and many more, but you get the idea). Kindness should not be preceded by mistreatment. That’s not how it works.

Ragging makes people stronger. Anyway, singing a song, dancing a little, or just talking to seniors shouldn’t be a problem.

Different things affect different people, to different extents. You do not decide how much your actions have affected people. Your Instagram stories and posts about mental health mean nothing if you continue to justify a vile act because it’s ‘not that big of a deal’. The attitude that many have towards introverts and people who face difficulty with social interactions, forms the root of numerous cases of ragging. When these people are labelled with terms like Jaada, the expectation that everyone should behave similarly is reinforced. If you want someone to open up or socialise with you, ragging is not the way to go.

Calling someone older Chetta/Chechi is a part of our culture. I see nothing wrong with making juniors show some respect.

It is not necessary to refer to fellow students in college using these terms. Those who want to use such terms can do so, but forcing juniors to use these terms only creates a culture where they are forced to refer to even absolutely immoral, rude, and perverted people with respect. Mutual respect is important. It’s not a one-way street.

Taking a bit of money from juniors is not a big deal.

It is not okay for anyone to demand any amount of money from someone else. It doesn’t matter if it’s ₹10, or ₹500. If you want to get something to drink, get it yourself. The juniors’ parents don’t work hard every day to buy you a milkshake.

Name-calling is not a big deal. If anything, nicknames show closeness, and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

The more you laugh off an offensive joke (based on physical appearance, caste, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) or don’t react to it, the more you normalise it. When you make fun of someone for certain characteristics, even if you claim to not ‘mean’ it, you are implying that the way that they are is something to make fun of. Certain nicknames are offensive, and they should be seen that way.

Seniors are more experienced than juniors. What’s the problem with showing it? Have we not earned it?

If your experience in life or academics has made any difference, it is essential to show it in your maturity. You should know how to treat people better. Share your knowledge with juniors without mistreating them first. It’s not hard.

Getting a junior’s phone number without her/him knowing, or making her/him give it to you should not be a problem. A phone number is public, and for other people to use.

No one is obliged to give their phone number to someone else. We cannot ignore the fact that many seniors ask juniors for their phone numbers to simply exploit them, or to bother and flirt with them. Consent is very important. If you feel like you wouldn’t get someone’s phone number if you asked them for it, then that’s a good enough reason for you to not have it at all.

Ragging is a reflection of everything we try to eradicate as a society; the mistreatment of a certain section of our society at a disadvantage (due to age/year in this instance), is reflected in something as small as a college campus.

Reading this may make you think, “What’s the point? I’ve already been a part of this culture. Do I even have the right to talk about it being wrong now? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of me?”

Take accountability for your actions. It is only hypocritical if you claim that ragging is wrong and continue to participate in it.

Give yourself the chance to change. If previous regrettable actions prevented people from changing, the world would be a much darker place to live in. Change is essential, and the ability to grow is one of the best things about being human. We have the ability to unlearn toxicity, educate ourselves, and do better. Let us not take that for granted.

If we do not fix this, our efforts to progress as a society, fighting against sexism, classism, casteism, racism, and more, go in vain. We must be the ones to make a change because a small scale problem can have a huge impact.

Accepting a flawed system is not the way to go. Recognizing its flaws, and changing them, is.

As we have made clear from the answers to typical statements that are used to justify ragging, it is an unnecessary, sadistic, and backward act, and should not be glorified, accepted, defended or continued in this day and age.

Written by Zeba Jowhar (@zebaa_j) and Sooraj Surendran (@_sooraj_surendran_).

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