Ragging - A Simple Analysis – Part III | Sunday Observer

Ragging - A Simple Analysis – Part III

26 April, 2020

Part II of this analysis in the Sunday Observer, 12/04/2020, shared with you a couple of examples of physical / sexual harassments raggees have to experience sometimes and also some answers given by the raggers to explain why they inflict such pain on the juniors. Although I do not intend to discuss each individual case I happened to investigate or get involved in as a student counselor or an academic staff member, during this analysis, I think it is important to share such examples with the reader at appropriate times in order to emphasise the gravity of the ragging epidemic in Sri Lanka. I also mentioned last week, that, I would like to discuss what we, as responsible citizens of this country, can do to eliminate this ragging virus from our society while helping the raggers and also ‘would be raggers’ to overcome the weaknesses in their thought process in order to get rid of such antisocial behaviours. What we have to keep in mind is that some of these ‘would be raggers’ perhaps, are raggees first, and then turn into raggers in the following year(s). As I have mentioned at the beginning of this series, the disciplinary code and the UGC guidelines of recommended punishments for the violators of the 1998 Ragging Act and the country’s Criminal Code or Penal Code are more than enough to suppress the symptoms of the virus for a temporary period, but if we do not eradicate it then it will just be a matter of time till we see it spreading through our universities again.

I think the following set of actions, perhaps implemented simultaneously or in a different order, would eradicate a virus from a predefined population/geographical area of concern. The process would be to:

a) identify the places where the virus is surviving at the moment and treat the victims and disinfect the habitats,

b) take actions to stop it from spreading any further,

c) find out how the virus replicates itself and design a counteractive method to stop that

d) find the origin, the source or the causation of the virus and destroy it, if it is at all possible.

As we are all experiencing and learning about what the whole world, as a community, is going through at the moment with the deadly COVID-19, these actions mainly would include testing, treating patients, disinfecting places where the infected people have been, quarantining patients and the people who have come in contact with the infected people and also continuing with the research programs covering all aspects of the fight against the virus with the expectation of coming up with a medicine that will kill the virus after it gets into the human body as well as a vaccine to protect people from getting it in the future. One can easily see that the action d) I have listed above, “finding the origin, the source or the causation and destroying it or at least destroying the ability to produce the particular virus” is the most important action in eradicating the virus. The other three actions may be considered as short and medium term solutions. In the race for a vaccine for a new virus, the researchers will be lucky if any of the existing vaccines show any significant strength against the new virus too. This is exactly what some of the researchers at the University of Maryland, USA, claimed just last week. They have been able to show scientific evidence indicating that the existing Polio Oral Vaccine is capable of boosting our first-line innate immunity to protect us against COVID-19 for at least a couple of months (known as cross-protection) by which time the body will have the necessary antibodies in place to fight the virus off.*This, of course, is extremely encouraging news for the whole world at this time. The reason I mention it here is to show the importance of looking at existing remedies, methods and formulas as well as trying to find new ones to solve a particular problem.

Housing freshmen in separate hostels, setting timetables in order to minimise the opportunities for the seniors to come in contact with the freshmen, conducting workshops for both freshmen and seniors, and in some cases or even for the parents of the students, increasing the presence of the security and marshals, video surveillance, catching the violators of the Ragging Act and conducting inquiries, handing out warnings and/or punishments to the guilty and/or any other the universities have been implementing so far in combating this ‘Ragging’ virus can all be considered as short and medium term remedies and clearly have not been effective enough to stop it from coming back in the following year. Therefore, I am going to focus mainly about eradicating the virus through action d) mentioned above, by identifying the origin, the source or the causation of the virus and destroying it, if at all possible. Even though I refer to ‘Ragging’ as a virus, it is better to remind ourselves that it is basically a human behavioural pattern, generated by a certain thought process and ambitions, through which the particular behaviour is justified as one of the most needed, at that particular time, to establish the hierarchical superiority over the new additions, and/or to have a temporary sadistic pleasure, and/or to follow the orders of their handlers in or outside the university and/or to claim ownership of available limited resources and/or to find a love interest as well as for initiating the newbies into the tribe. That is why, in Part II last week, I suggested that “it is our responsibility to make sure that raggers who are proven to have inflicted such inhumane physical/emotional/mental pain on others should be subjected to psychiatric evaluations first and then directed towards a program of treatment and/or suitable punishment”.

Identifying all the factors influencing a certain human behaviour is not at all an easy task, though philosophers and scientists, over thousands of years and all the way from Plato to Herbert Spencer, have been trying to identify the balance between genealogical and environmental factors responsible for different behavioural patterns in human society. But, it certainly is worth trying to identify as many of those factors as possible and learn how we can enhance the ones which are helping humanity climb the evolutionary ladder upward and destroy or at least control the ones that are pushing us down that ladder in the direction of the animal kingdom. The scary part about this thought of sliding down the evolutionary ladder is that, decades-long research about the behaviour of primates conducted by people like Jeanne and Stuart Altmann on baboons in Kenya and Tanzania and by Jane Goodall on chimpanzees in Tanzania clearly shows that it is not just my metaphorical imagination.


( The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and can be contacted at [email protected])