Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ragging - Emotional Abuse bordering on Physical Abuse

Ragging is rampant and it's not going away anytime soon, at least in this part of the world. Ragging or Hazing is a form emotional abuse bordering on physical abuse. Let's not hide from reality of abuse and torment that entails every incidence of Ragging and call a spade a spade - Ragging Is Abuse. That said, what I'm going to talk about is based on my personal experiences at Gandhi medical college, Hyderabad. There's so many people, even on Quora, to my utter disappointment and bewilderment, who have built a wall of defense around ragging calling it a socializing tool only to hide their abusive personalities. There are several layers to this debate and I'm going to try and break it down, point by point.
My Personal ordeal - Ragging, an apparent Initiation to become a true "Gandhian", began right after regular classes had begun in Gandhi Medical College. I was forcibly taken to the hostel, stripped, slapped and humiliated in front of several seniors from various Batches and also in front of my own class mates. This was compounded by the fact that I am a native of Tamil Nadu, an "Aravam". My ragging was a combination of racism, body shaming and name calling. Me, being a day scholar, returned home and swore never to go back to college. That changed soon after a lot of self introspection and learning to fight back. My friends pointed out that I was an easy target because I was submissive and eager to please the people around me. They were right and I eventually learnt to resist any ragging attempts. This has led me to being completely averse to the idea of ragging ever since and this article is a reflection of that very thought process.
The Psychology of the Abuser - Like I said earlier, Ragging is Abuse and that is what I will call it through the remainder of this article. The abuse here though is shrouded under the guise of a false sense of justification by the abuser that he is out to teach, but this is actually a hallmark of every abusive personality - putting you down by shattering your self esteem so as to project himself as someone you can look up to. It is fair to say that most abusers , especially in the setting of ragging/hazing have a narcissistic personality bordering on self love and the constant need to feel superior. Like many bullies, an abuser uses physical threats or actions when feeling impotent, frustrated. Let me talk about the several instances of abuse I've seen at my college and the way I understand it. As simple and as harmless as they might seem, there' always more to ragging than meets the eye.
1. Physical abuse - This can be direct physical hurt, but can also entail physical restraint of the abused. There are gruesome incidences, but I won't dwell into the specifics because this answer is not a shock tactic. Physical abuse is more common in a hostel setting when freshers spend most of their time held up in dormitories as they are ragged and abused by one senior followed by another. The fear of standing up to this abuse in itself manifests as a more incapacitating form of self abuse, when the victim becomes emotionally restrained and emasculated. This form of abuse is commonly seen in violent cults where the victims, despite their desire to leave, are overwhelmed by a sense of foreboding and stay in the cult and continue to suffer through the abuse. This is most evident from the fact the freshers staying in the hostel go from room to room "requesting" to be ragged. The abuser succeeds time and again in instilling a fear of dire consequences and he does so by reminding the victim of the several years he will spend in college in the company of the abuser. The abuser will threaten the victim with social boycott, academic setbacks and he will succeed every step of the way in keep the victim chained in invisible shackles.
2. Destroying self esteem - "Don't smile and don't you dare laugh", "Look down when you're talking to me", "Fold your hands", "Call me SIR", are things we've all been told and may seem pretty harmless. Every time you obey such commands, you spiral down a regressive path which eventually ends with you as the bottom feeder looking up at the abuser, who now places himself at the top of the ladder of social hierarchy. This is a clever technique to reinforce Structural inequality in educational institutions and only asserts oppression that some are superior to others. More often that not this bias can take the form of Casteist harassment with certain sections of students facing more difficulties than the other.
There are several incidents where I've been put down, time and again, because I've always been outspoken and not one to shy away from a difference of opinion. A more systematic form of institutionalized oppression is evident from how Juniors are virtually banned from the library, reading room and canteen areas for the first few months of entering college, or how juniors are ordered to vacate chairs in the library so seniors can sit in their favorite places.
3. Ragging and Servitude - Most seniors treat their favorite (most obliging i.e.) juniors as their personal slaves often using them as their personal shopping assistants, for running errands and for writing their records. Some may justify this as just seeking help, but that argument is invalid because help which entails a sense of superiority and the risk of "dire consequences" isn't help at all. That is just abuse in the form a master - slave dynamic parading as seeking favors. If it really is help, it should work both ways and no, ragging a junior to make him understand how college life works doesn't qualify as help!
An ideal Senior - junior relationship is that which is built on the foundation of friendship and not one with forced respect and superiority. I've never ragged a junior and always treated them with respect. Some of my juniors are the closest friends I have and I know they've never ragged a junior themselves. It is evident from my personal experience that some regressive attitudes are inherited undiluted and the abused becomes the abuser. This continues to be passed down one from generation to the next, but on the bright side, so are progressive junior senior relationship equations which do not involve abuse. The one common defense I hear when I talk about ragging is that it forges long lasting friendships. My opinion is that long lasting friendships can be forged without necessitating the component of ragging. There is a growing distaste towards abuse in these relationships but ragging is still a deeply rooted problem endemic to colleges in India. Understanding that ragging is not acceptable and that it should be done away with as a socializing tool can go a long way in eradicating abuse completely.