What is ragging?

“Any press is good press. So keep on ragging me.”

                                                                          Carl Lewis

Besides the fact that every educational institute has one big “Ragging Free Campus” poster at its entrance, the reports of inhumanely torture in the name of ‘ragging’ still have not disappeared from the media reports. Although, the reality is that most the incidences of ragging are not reported or are usually suppressed. Ragging is not only detrimental for the psychological well being for a fresher but also it may actually lead to some students  leaving his/her dream institute to which they earned admission with their hard work.

According to the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary, “Ragging means a noisy disorderly conduct, annual parade of students in fancy dress to collect money for charity, playing rough jokes, or throwing into wild disorder a person’s room etc.”

The honorable Supreme Court of India defines Ragging as, “”Ragging is any disorderly conduct, whether by words spoken or written, or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any student, indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities which cause or are likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the psyche of a fresher or a junior student.”

Social interaction and ragging

Initially it was believed or as it is always rationalized by the “raggers” that ragging is nothing but a form of social interaction and it melts the ice between seniors and freshers. It was believed to be helpful in releasing pent-up tension and hesitation among the freshers to interact with one another. But, in reality, often if not always it causes pain, stress and a feeling of inferiority among the victims. There is an inherent, inbuilt power structure and aggressiveness in the process. Even some esteemed, elite institutions in India give permission to conduct “social interaction sessions” to senior students which are ultimately nothing but a euphemistic term for ragging. From lewd comments about the bodies of juniors, verbal abuse, as well as inappropriate physical challenges, ensue. Also, most of these “social interactions” happen outside classroom hours and is not supervised by authorities and often the junior students are compelled to attend these sessions, taking time off their precious study hours.

Forms of ragging

Ragging can take a number of forms. For example, the 2000 report of UGC includes some of the following forms.

  1. to ask/answer vulgar questions,
  2. to look at pornographic pictures
  3. to shock the fresher out of their innocence’;
  4. to force to drink alcohol, scalding tea, etc.,
  5. to force to do acts with sexual overtones, including homosexual acts;
  6. to force to do acts which can lead to physical injury/mental torture or death,
  7. to strip, kiss, etc.;
  8. To do other obscenities.

Psychology behind ragging


The idea is that we value things more when we gain it by overcoming difficulties (Aronson and Mills, 1958). If a fresher feels that he dedicated a lot of time and furnished serious effort in order to obtain his membership, it is logical he tends to value it more.

Stockholm syndrome:

Let me first introduce the concept of Stockholm briefly. In August 1973, two bank robbers, in Stockholm held 3 women and a man hostage for a period of 6 days. In those six days the hostages developed emotional bonds with their captors and exhibited shocking attitude. They not only resisted the attempt made by the police to rescue them but one of the woman hostages later got engaged to one of the kidnappers. Psychologists later tried to study the behaviour shown by the Stockholm hostages and termed this phenomenon as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.

Psychologists believe that ragging is one example of ‘Social Stockholm Syndrome’. In ragging behaviour it is frequently seen that at first the victims are tortured and then they are behaved to in a good way. Such psychological technique even breaks the person psychologically (Harsh Agarwal, 2010).

Consequences of Ragging

  1. When you come to your institute with a bunch of aspirations to achieve, to have new friends, to learn and innovate and you end up in a hostel room being beaten by your seniors. It is likely that you will develop fear and an immense helplessness.
  2. Sometimes while ragging, seniors make fun of one’s name, one’s birthplace or one’s dressing. The confidence of the young mind is broken. He may end up being dissatisfied with something which he can’t change.
  3. Traumatic experiences are also not very rare. Sometimes the traumatic experience of torture, humiliation, and insult may lead to permanent damage in one’s psyche.
  4. There are some students who may actually leave the institution due to such negative experience at the beginning of it.
  5. Serious psychological problem like Depression is also found among ragging victims. For example, in a study in 2012 Maia et al. confirmed that factors such as ragging and low social involvement were correlated with depressive symptoms in pre-clinical stage male medical students. At a mild level, isolating oneself from society is highly frequent.
  6. Incidents of suicides and suicide attempts are also reported. For example, the case of Krishna a student of college of Chennai, who hung himself, had written about his ragging in his diary before putting an end to his life.
  7. Physical assault and injuries that may actually have fatal outcomes are also there.
  8. The effects of ragging extend beyond the victim. The family members, who may have arranged for resources for the education of their children with all difficulties, also feel helpless. Sometimes, the fear of hurting parents makes the victims suppress the intense problems that they are facing. That is even more detrimental to mental health.

Why is ragging not being controlled?

Despite many strict actions from the government, it’s not being possible to get rid of the problem of ragging completely. Majority of the cases go unreported,

  • The fear of being more tortured and more victimized causes silence from the victim’s side.
  • The victims fear that the authority will force them to withdraw complains.
  • In most institutes, the authority figures lack the moral responsibility in being strict to deal with the problem of ragging. They don’t consider the negative consequences of ragging and continue to accept it as a ritual for years to come.
  • Fear that they and/or their family members will be harassed and victimized
  • They don’t want to ruin the careers of the “raggers”.

Renowned singer Sona Mahapatra said, “I was horribly ragged in my engineering college in Odisha. Ragging is deplorable, and must be banned. Be it physical, mental, minor or major, ragging is a very perverted show of power, control and humiliation, and not way of geting anyone to join a community and blend into it. There are some other interesting ways of doing that.” All we need to do is recognize ‘Ragging’ as a problem, a problem that is poisoning young lives slowly. The attitude that it’s a game, a ritual; a mentality of “kyu ki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi” and continuing what we have faced from others, is not going to help in any way. The campaign, programs from the government etc., will be only effective if we dare to protest. Passivity is fatal; we need to be active to stop this.

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