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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Why I think Ragging should be banned

By  Mahendra Gonsalkorale

I can distinctly recall the anxiety and fear I experienced as the first week of my life as a Medical student approached. I was just 18 years old and fearful of the big jump from A level student to Medical Student. But more than anything, I was worried about the indignities I may have to suffer in the name of Ragging.

Ragging was purported to be a welcome for the freshers organised by the seniors. It was meant to ‘educate’ them on what is expected from them in terms of behaviour and discipline as new entrants. Sadly, it was nothing of the kind and was a forum for sadistic inadequate students with untamed cruel streaks to impart humiliation and physical and mental discomfort in an organised way. Unfortunately, teachers and Administrators often turned a blind eye for reasons which are unclear to me. Some spoke of upholding tradition, and that is laudable if the traditions are worth upholding.

Ragging can vary from relatively minor teasing to more overt forms of unacceptable behaviour including the use of physical violence and sexual harassment.  Ragging has led to major psychological trauma and in extreme cases, even to suicide.

I did not and still cannot see even an iota of sense in allowing this sort of behaviour to continue. Some refer to it in glowing terms as a way of helping new entrants to become more mature and as a catalyst to forming lasting friendships between the raggers and the ragged. In some instances, it was a case of the seniors taking the Law into their own hands and meting out punishment to badly behaved juniors, as happened to our Batch after the infamous Castle Street invasion affair at the Law-Medical cricket match.

In a free society which upholds the principle of protection for all citizens, there is absolutely no justification for allowing ragging to take place. If a citizen behaved in this manner towards another in any other setting, he would be charged and punished.

Ragging is unjust, immoral, and inhuman and has no place in a civilised society and should be strictly banned and the ban strictly implemented.

I would be very interested to know the views of colleagues. Have your views changed or do you still hold the same view, for or against.


21 comments:

  1. This is an interesting topic which should generate a good discussion. In June 1962 when we were subjected to the rag, I took it in my stride perhaps because I was not affected that much. All I can say is that the Rag during our time was totally different from what is taking place today.

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  2. Mahen
    Thank you for bringing up this important topic of a ritual which is sadly still rampant in SL.
    We all have our own rag stories from way back. Some are frightening some are funny and others are somewhere in between. On looking back it surprises me why it was not banned and stamped on hard enough to eradicate it. The perpetrators of the abuse seemed to have the support of some members of the staff. The staff merely looked away. I raise my hat to Prof Rajasuriya and Dr Lester Jayawardene who openly showed their disapproval of this barbaric ritual. I raise my hat to the late Buddhadasa Bodhinayake of our junior batch who took a courageous stand and refused to be ragged and avoided it completely. He withstood the fallout from his actions with great distinction.
    I must confess I too didn't see it that way in my youth but the passage of years have made me wiser. The government and the Universities have a duty of care to the freshers and they have failed in their duty. This finally becomes a Police matter too and the law enforcement officers have to go in hard to stamp this out.
    Finally, I hope the public too take a firmer stand on this and show their disapproval of all forms of ragging by informing their MP's, holding rallies and signing petitions. After all it is their children who suffer its indignities.

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    1. You are seeing things the way westerners see wiser & experienced having lived abroad.
      ia

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  3. I agree with ND and the author, that the Rag, especially in its present from should be totally banned. ND has also quite rightly identified two staff members who were against it.

    Where I disagree with ND's comment is that Bodhinayake never could avoid the rag cmpletely. In fact, he was singled out by some seniors for "special treatment". I saw with my own eyes when Bodhi was crying unashemedly one day when he couldn't bear it any longer. I should know because although Bodhi was junior to us in Med School, he was my classmate at Ananda. There was absolutely no chance to "rescue" him when he was getting the "treatment". You will also remember that during his entire 5 years in the Faculty, he came to the canteen and the common room area only to check his mail with "Marker".

    What you all probably don't know is that when the government changed and the SLFP came to power in 1970, Dr. Seevali Ratwatte (PM's brother) asked Bodhi to make a request for any high position and assured him that he will get it. Bodhi declined and soon thereafter, left government service to leave for UK. As ND and Speedy would know, He was a Consultant Child Psychiatrist in UK. He passed away a few years ago after a prolonged illness.

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  4. Lucky
    Thanks for the correction. These are events of 50+ years ago.

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  5. Thanks for your comments ND and Lucky. I didn't know all the details of Bodinayake's experience although I was aware that he was targeted. I do hope others will also comment in "the fullness of time", but I won't be at all surprised if only the "usual culprits" do!

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    1. Raz,--- your "Substantial No: 1"October 19, 2016 at 1:57 AM

      Mahen,
      The 'dozy' ones are still their in their own 'day dream worlds'.
      "Wake up sleepy Gene /Jeane,the world is about to end"!!!
      "It does not mean a lot to a day dream believer'!!!

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  6. The Bhodinayake "affair" is a red herring. I hope that doesnt detract from the important issue of the need to ban the rag in its entirety as it has no place in decent society in the 21st century. It should be replaced by "Freshers week" as happens in most Universities in the UK which is a warm welcome rather than the physical abuse and mental torture of the RAG. I have been away from SL for 42 years and do not know the public feeling about the "Rag". How do the Universities view this barbaric ordeal? What does the Government think ?

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  7. I had hoped that the freshman rag was archaic after all these years.
    I gather from your write up that it exists in whatever form, and I could empathize with your outrage. The authorities have to be HELD responsible for dereliction of their duties in those instances where they did not take steps to end it. That alone should stop it before there is a death or injury.
    ia

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  8. Raz,--- your 'Substantial Friend'October 18, 2016 at 12:23 PM

    I wholeheartedly agree that so called 'Ragging' should be banned all-together. It is archaic & barbaric form of torture or as some thinks it is fun--- some sense of fun?? I had to under go 'the treatment' due to my physical stature or 'Padding' as it's known now!! This form of torture is now not the only domain of the medics. It has infected all other Faculties as well. I do not mean the Mental side, but it might as well be. It has spread like a wildfire like the Plague to all other areas of ALL Departments in ALL Universities in Sri Lanka!! Some have lost their lives or suffered PTSD for many years later. The sooner it is legalized against by sacking and / or by Prison terms & both the better.
    I had to undergo ragging as 'Fresher' as well as a Senior student by one of our renowned Teachers. Again for the self same reason mentioned above. I must say that particular Teacher had no malice nor race undertones to his actions. He was a very fair Examiner and what happened in the Wards never came into the equation and what mattered was only the performance on the day of the Exam. I have no grouse nor gripes against him. 'All's flowed under the bridge'. May he attain NIBBANA for all the great & good that he has done.

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  9. Dear All,
    In the Colombo Medical Faculty the policy has been zero tolerance for ragging for many years. When I was the Dean, it was the same. Of course this is within the faculty premises, What happens in private lodgeins is beyond control. However during my tenure as Dean, there wasn't a single complaint about ragging.
    Sanath

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    1. WELL DONE SANATH. WHAT HAPPENS IN PRIVATE LODGINGS WILL STOP IF THERE IS LEGISLATION TO PROTECT THE STUDENTS.
      ia

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  10. I wonder what situation exists at the Campus at Peradeniya regarding the rag. Within the Halls of Residence to stamp out abuse must be a huge task which requires dogged determination, dedication and perseverence. The University needs the backing of politicians, the public and the police and wonder if that is the case.

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  11. Were there any problems on campus recently to spark the debate?

    ia

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  12. There have been no serious problems in the recent past, on any of the main campuses. This is a welcome departure from a spate of serious incidents that were taking place some months ago. As I wrote in my very first comment, Speedy's main intention was to generate a lively discussion. This has been achieved to some extent, but as someone pointed out, comments come in only from the "regulars". Sad to say, some members of the batch have obviously "seen" computers in their day to day life, but never paused even to "look" at them, let alone use them! With such people who refuse to learn, paucity of contributors is not surprising.

    According to my cursory observation, the batch membership fall into a number of categories.
    1. The group that I have just mentioned (who will never learn)
    2. Those who are making a half hearted attempt without much success.
    3. Those who are making a valiant effort, but are shy to come out into the open.
    4. A fairly large group which is "computer literate", wanting to contribute, but have not mastered "making comments" as yet.
    5. The regular contributors who send in contributions, make comments, communicate by e-mail, make good use of the Internet. This group is expanding, but very, very slowly.


    On the positive side, I personally know of many who

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    1. Lucky, your comment trailed off at the end-you may not have noticed .
      ia

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    2. Thank you Indra for pointing that out. I have been quite busy these last few days and I have not been able to read through what I myself wrote! Shall make amends after this weekend and after my return from China.

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  13. Comment from Sanath Lama.

    "Perfect analysis, Lucky. I agree totally. At our age ,old habits die hard and acquisition of new habits is difficult"

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  14. Sorry about my late comment. Just got my computer back in action! Mahendra you have highlighted the very important subject of ragging, which we take for granted . I don't say it should be scrapped but regulated with severe penalties for exceeding limits (sounds like 'drink driving' doesn't it?) It's 49 years since it happened to our batch but it is significant that you remember it so well. So do I but the boys suffered a lot more than the girls did. I have not yet read the other comments yet. Zita

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  15. An interesting observation . The very people who hated being ragged & tried to run away from it were the individuals who sought fun or delight in ragging the newcomers to medical school. Hard to explain this phenomenon.
    ia
    ia

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  16. I just read about the terrible ragging experience of a famous Sri Lankan actress in the Nation newspaper. When will the Suthorities wake up to the fact that Ragging is a crime and that perpetrators should face the full face of the Law?

    Yashodha Wimaladharma, one of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated actresses was chosen by Kelaniya University to be awarded a meritorious honorary award for Arts. However, on the day she was chosen for this award she spoke about her bitterest experiences in her life when she was subjected to ragging at the same university. Our sister paper Rivisarasi of Sunday Rivira spoke to Yashodha about her traumatic experience.

    http://nation.lk/online/2017/04/01/beauty-and-the-beasts.html

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