How to handle Ragging? This once popular post is being republished from A First Taste of law that has now shut down.
This post has been written by Jenisha Parekh, with certain inputs from Ramanuj Mukherjee.
I distinctly remember that my parents were overwhelmed with worries and anxieties when I was supposed to leave for college. One of their major worries was ragging. Well. It’s not difficult to understand why. Haven’t you heard all those horrific ragging stories? About how people had to leave the colleges of their choice due to ragging? Probably you should not believe all of them, but well, let’s face it: no matter how much the law schools boast of having strict anti-ragging policies, ragging (or the politically correct version of it called positive interaction) takes place in every law college, and even the most elite law schools. Maybe more in the elite law schools, for most of them are residential. Ragging may pick up a very different dimension and scale if you have to live with your seniors within the same hostel, away from your parents or family who would usually support you in times of trouble.
Need you be worried?
The good news is that usually the ragging that takes place in law schools is not the sort of ragging that is reported by the media. Note that never any horrific incident from one of the elite law schools have been reported yet. Most law schools have a strict anti-ragging policy, and committees in place to investigate and deal with any complaints. In fact, since the recent Supreme Court Judgments and the tough legal stance taken by the government, law schools have been a little paranoid about ragging. As a result, you shall hear in most of the law schools that there is ‘no ragging, just positive interaction’ which helps the seniors and the freshers to get to know each other.
Usually, during ‘positive interaction’, the freshers may be asked to dance/sing/imitate someone/give an answer to awkward questions. Generally everyone is asked to introduce themselves. This may be followed by a group of seniors asking a series of questions – the questions often border on outrageous, offending, funny. Most of the times, it is all clean fun and does not end up in the humiliation of the junior being ragged. But well, not everyone is the same and some people do tend to cross a line. In a law school at least, I would expect a senior to show you the way even if you find yourself in an awkward situation. If other seniors cross a line, most often one of their peers will get things under control. It is very rarely that one may find oneself in one of those truly tragic situations, where you are mistreated or badly behaved with. Well, it is generally nothing that you can not handle with grace, given that you understand the psychology that goes behind ragging, arrogant seniors and mentally prepared for this kind of situations. It is just another social situation where you are interacting with a bunch of strangers, who not necessarily have anything against you, but will like to prove their superiority in front of you and their peers. You can let them have their way as long as it is not insulting or humiliating for you, and if crosses a certain line, you’d have to take a different strategy. At least now, the law and the general sympathy is very much on your side, so I do not see any need to panic!
What are the types of ragging you may face?
We have divided different types of raggings/positive interactions in a few categories based on degree and the intention of the seniors:
- Good intention, fun interaction: the most common form of ragging in law schools. This is what positive interaction should be. Seniors ask funny, intelligent questions. Gives group tasks. Asks people to sing and dance. This is a nice way of getting to know your seniors, and classmates too. Most likely you shall be part of one of these sessions, just do whatever you are asked to do. Probably you shall enjoy it too unless you are very sensitive/introvert. Realise one thing, no one is forcing you to do anything, and you know that no one will prevent you from walking away. But that will leave a bad impression on everyone else; people will see your reaction as socially unacceptable.
I have seen students getting offended by the smallest of tasks like dancing, which is quite unwarranted. Yes, it may put you out of your comfort zone, but that is the whole point. It is a socially challenging situation for you, but this is one of the best environments for you to learn how to deal with such pressure. In real life, you shall face a plenty of humiliating situations – with teachers, in front of your boss, maybe when the result comes out – would you cry and run away and hide? If you raise a hue and cry about such small things, you will definitely come under the scanner for being too ‘fussy’ and ‘snobbish’. Not only in college, but in all social circumstances. Moreover, your seniors will not like you and you do not need that! It is actually due to this positive interaction that you end up sharing a great bond with those same seniors! I have seen many freshers taking full advantage of these positive interactions by entertaining the seniors well and giving them an impression of being a sporty junior. It is safe to do as directed in such harmless sessions of positive interaction.
- Stupid senior, trying to establish his superiority: This can get frustrating. You see a dumb guy, trying to act smart or prove a point. Play along as long as they are not getting abusive. If you think they are doing it too much, be very tactful, and leave soon. Maybe take their permission before you leave. Well, you don’t have to show them their place, not yet. Maybe after a couple of months if they keep badgering you, go for it.
- A group of feminist women: they will catch hold of you, and after asking the general stuff like what’s your name, how many siblings they will start asking you things like do you think women are better than men? Do you think a man should beat up his wife if she engages in adultery? And other questions in that line. Say only politically correct things. If you do not know what is politically correct, just say, “I believe in equality.” Just that.
- A bunch of drunken guys: Tricky. Very tricky. Say that you need to go to toilet, or that you are getting a call from dad, and disappear. You don’t want to be there for long. If you can’t escape, keep quiet. Don’t say more than one or two word, that too only as answers. Just keep quiet and get away at the earliest opportunity. If things go out of hand, just run. Next day these guys will probably apologise anyway, but you need not depend on a drunk man’s sense of civility.
- Sadist, frustrated people: There are always some people who are miserable themselves and are hell bent on making others miserable. These guys jump up in joy when they see the freshers: a clueless, helpless lot, easy preys. They ask people to hump the wall, walk on the cornice, or to kiss an electric bulb. Force people to drink and smoke. These are the people who are the real reason we needed to have an anti-ragging law. Well, in the law schools that I know about such behaviour is not acceptable. If someone asks you to do such things, outright refuse to do it. They will probably be abusive too, if you indeed have the misfortune of meeting such people. Try to be as polite as possible, leave the place as soon as you can. They are unlikely to do too much, as there is enough pressure from all quarters against such activity. You can even drop a mail to me; I’ll get you in touch with people in your law school who can help you.
I will be very surprised if any senior this year prove to be so stupid as to get drunk and beat up juniors in name of ragging, given that they have 90% chance of getting expelled for the same. Nevertheless, I’d rather that you are prepared for the worst. If you are physically manhandled, or hit – what should you do? Run away, of course! Makes no sense to fight it out, just seek help of a reasonable senior. If you know no one, inform the security guards, you have them in all law schools. They will call the warden. If such a situation occurs, don’t bother to think that your seniors will not like you because you complained. Most people will in fact respect you for you did not let people walk over you when they were unreasonable.
In lesser cases, when safety is not in immediate danger, it is not unusual to be in a dilemma as to whether one should inform the college authorities or stay silent for the sake of not locking horns with the seniors. In such cases, it is wise to discuss the matter with your batchmates. Also, not all seniors would support such acts, so help can come from those quarters too. If the issue is not resolved amicably with the help of batchmates and other seniors and if the violence persists, then it would be appropriate to approach the authorities.
Further, I shall discuss some quick tips as to how freshers should conduct themselves for the first few months of college to avoid the limelight for wrong reasons, as that might lead to more sessions of ‘positive interactions’. Have a good impression or no impression at all, but do not form a bad impression! Be careful while conversing with people, including your batchmates. Do not make politically incorrect statements, like demeaning people coming from a particular city, region, religion, etc. It is very important to be careful with your words as people might twist even a simple unintended non-slanderous statement that is made! Once you fall in this trap, regular sessions of positive interaction are definitely in store for you.
Cardinal rule for those who want to avoid ragging: avoid attention. Do not stand out. Be the most inconspicuous and boring person. If you have a goatee, get rid of it. No funky hairstyle for a month. If you are a stud, keep your studliness in check J you can let it blossom after a couple of months, once the onslaught of positive interaction is over!
On the whole, be smart and social in your interactions with people. If you feel that positive interaction goes overboard in what might be serious ragging, then you do not need to be a mute victim and accept it. However, while deciding whether positive interaction is acceptable, it is important to be reasonable and not be over sensitive.
Best of luck!