Executive Director, C Voter Foundation
His Nadia based parents had sent 17- or 18-year-old Swapnadeep Kundu to Jadavpur University with much hope. He young and dreamy Kundu had enrolled for a Bengali (Honours) course in the famous university and was allotted a room in the hostel. A bright future beckoned. But horror overwhelmed hope within days of Swapnadeep moving into the hostel as he was mercilessly ragged by a group of monsters who call themselves students and ex-students of the university. A traumatised Swapnadeep wrote an SOS message to his mother seeking help and rescue from the perverted chaps who toyed with his trauma. Within 24 hours of the SOS, the naked and unconscious body of Swapnadeep was found on the ground right at the hostel. He was taken to the hospital and declared dead. Initially, there were reports that he might have been so traumatised by the ragging with sexual overtones that he committed suicide by jumping from the second floor of the hostel. But as outrage spread over Jadavpur, Nadia and elsewhere, the police registered a murder case and have so far arrested 12 current and former students. The former students were merrily staying in the hostel brazenly violating all rules and regulations despite passing out of the university.
Politics, as usual, has erupted over the alleged murder of the young Swapnadeep. Let that be. What should concern any sensible Indian is the persistence of the cruel practice of ragging that some insensitive people pass off as rites of passage. Once, the monstrous practice was confined to medical and engineering colleges. It then spread to all academic institutions. Even senior school students started ragging their juniors, sometimes leading to death. Every time a particularly gruesome case that shakes our conscience comes up, there is outrage for a few days or maybe a week. And then we forget the raggedy and move on even as helpless families are forever wounded. Rites of passage, becoming a man or just some harmless fun and games are usually used as excuses for ragging. Some say that a little bit of banter and verbal abuse is all right as long as there is no physical violence and sexual abuse. They are plain wrong and defending the indefensible. There is nothing romantic about ragging. It is a brutal practice that often does permanent psychological damage to a victim. It is inhuman and it must be stopped.
This is a rare instance when all political parties can meet in a bi-partisan manner and think of practical and pragmatic ways to end this menace. For a change, Indian politicians can show that thy have the ability to set aside differences and egos and do some good for the society. But something has to be done to prevent more youngsters like Swapnadeep to fall victim. I am convinced exemplary, effective and quick punishment is the only way seniors will think twice before brutalising their juniors who in turn will will then brutalise their juniors in an endless vicious cycle of perversion and depravity. The moment there is prima facie evidence or suggestion of ragging, the offending students must be suspended from the colleges and universities and sent home. If the anti-ragging body of the institution finds that the allegations are genuine, the offenders must be rusticated and barred from entering the premises of the institutions. Meanwhile, the police should independence probe the mater as a criminal case. Some say that this approach is very heavy handed and could destroy the careers and lives of many youngsters who may not after all be guilty of ragging. I find this amusing. Many High Courts have now publicly acknowledged that innocent families have been ruined and destroyed by women who have filed false dowry cases. Has the law been dropped because numerous women are now abusing its stringent provisions? Not at all. The Supreme Court and various High Courts have issued guidelines whereby the police cannot arrest and throw the “accused” in jail just because a woman has filed a dowry case. For that matter, women are also misusing the “false promise to marry amounts to rape” provisions in the penal Code. But the law remains as it must because it was drafted for a different set of genuine victims. So a stringent law against ragging must be made and implemented strictly in all academic institutions. It is only when students realise they risk losing their careers permanently if they are caught ragging that they will stop. Some demented souls will still rag, as demented monsters still rape and gang rape despite stringent punishment. That’s human nature.
A reply given by the government to an RTI application says that at last 25 young students have died in the last five odd years because of the brutal practice. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu & Odisha lead the pack. Now I am certain that less numbers have been lynched publicly by frenzied or bigoted mobs. Every time a barbaric act of lynching occurs, there is global outrage and India is promptly branded as some medieval place. Each lynching is a matter of shame for India. So is each young death caused by ragging. Why don’t we speak up more forcefully against this barbarity?
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.