‘Ragging’: A Tradition of Bullies

Traditions… what exactly is a tradition? The dictionary says, tradition is “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.” But can we always rely upon dictionary definitions? Often, some traditions don’t need to be passed down at all.

I come from a country with a rich culture – and many ‘traditions’. They of course can have both a positive and a negative impact on the community. Although, sadly, in today’s context, traditions seem to have taken a turn for the worse, or worst.

In my own country, one such tradition that remains prevalent is ‘ragging’. ‘Ragging’ here means verbal or physical abuse. This has become a major problem in local universities of Sri Lanka – and even among Sri Lankan communities in universities overseas. When it comes to diverse communities within foreign universities, like here at the UNMC, some nationalities are bound to have a larger community than others, my own being one of them. ‘Ragging’ tends to take place in such large, closely knit groups.

What typically happens is, ‘freshers’ are subject to abuse of all sorts by their ‘seniors’. This has resulted in many students dropping out due to mental distress and trauma. There have even been extreme suicidal cases, where such abuse has become so severe and overwhelming for the victims that they have to take their own lives.

I can’t tell what would possess anyone to carry out these inhumane acts that could leave someone so broken; literally, in fact. The case that ‘ragging’ still continues is absolutely horrendous and incomprehensible. It also angers me, that some of these people show no remorse for these acts. The problem here is that no one knows where to draw the line and at which point to stop – no one.

To make matters even worse, this ‘tradition’ has propagated to universities abroad as well, in order to uphold a ‘Sri Lankan-ness’. It’s condemnable enough that these things happen in your own country. But to take them abroad, and disrupt the life of someone who’s just trying to fit into a foreign university, is almost too cruel and selfish to comprehend. Fitting in as an international student is itself challenging enough, with or without such violence, in case one doesn’t already know.

There have been a number of situations in which students both in foreign universities as well as local universities have dropped out due to unknown reasons. They most often cite ‘depression’ as the sole cause. If ragging has indeed caused students to even abandon their education in fear of ‘ragging’, then we must react to ensure these activities don’t take place at all.


Why rag?

I think one of the driving factors that make these people do what they do is ‘jealousy’. Some just can’t bear to see others doing better than them, interacting and conversing so well with others. It triggers a spark of anger that they would never achieve such a feat if they continue to act the way they do.

I’ve come to learn both from personal experience and reading that most bullies come from troubled families, where affection seems rare. These people then grow up to be more aggressive and impulsive. However, the trend doesn’t mean that all (and only) troubled families produce bullies. There are also cases where families who exercise power and wealth to their advantage, and get away with murder; literally and metaphorically.

In foreign universities, (please get the hint), when asking ‘why’, the most common response is, “to create a close bond between seniors and freshers.” This is ludicrous, beyond imagination, and clearly highlighting the shallow thought of people today. How can verbal and physical abuse make two people closer – where is the logic? If abuse were key to building a close relationship between people, the world would already be a complete war-zone by now, wouldn’t it?


Voicing out together

Source: Daily Mirror

I say, the so-called ‘tradition’ needs to stop. We need to change our outlook on life. The world, as it appears, needs a reality check. Many of us today are driven by fear and hopelessness. We give so much thought to what other people might think of us, and would rather suffer in silence. In most cases the majority of people are on the same side, but again due to the fear of judgment and failure, we are reluctant to speak up. This is the kind of attitude that needs to change. If more and more (and more) people share their views, we’ll have a positive impact on our own community. Every voice needs to be heard.

When it comes to boys, the stigma is multi-layered. Boys feel they aren’t ‘manly’ enough when they can’t ‘handle’ a few punches or kicks. The problem here is that many boys feel embarrassed to speak about what happened to them, in fear of such sexist branding as ‘unmanly’. They then suffer further emotional distress. In truth, violence sees no gender. Boys should receive equal treatment as girls, when it comes to violence – or indeed, to many other cases in life.

Our confusing reality is, speaking up for justice itself takes courage, while bullying becomes so natural. What seems to be the overall picture here is saddening. Standing up for yourself and speaking out against violent abuse are very rare – and almost controversial, sometimes deemed ‘immature’, ‘unable’ to cope with one’s own problems.

This is the mind-set of people today, but is also something we, the next generation, must confront and change. Let us speak out, on all issues that we think unfair and unjust. As Emma Watson says,

If not me, Who?

If not now, When?


Written by Aneeqah Macan Markar

Featured image from The Times of India

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE. 

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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