Stripped of dignity: PU freshmen forced to bear brunt of shameful ragging rituals

LAHORE: In the guise of open-mindedness, the newly-admitted students of the fine arts department at the University of Punjab have been exposed to harassment and stripping in the name of ragging.

A student, who recently secured admission in the department, on the condition of anonymity, told Pakistan Today there was panic among the fresh students due to the humiliation in the name of ragging.

“Ragging happens with every new student, but this kind of ragging in Punjab University is against the expectations and norms. Our seniors also raged with us. Actually, the story is that during ragging we were asked to undress when our female classmates were also present,” he said.

“Obviously, male students strongly protested against this, but we were so intimidated by the seniors that we had to be naked in front of the ladies of our class,” he lamented.

The said student believed that many male students have suffered mental stress due to this “humiliation” at the hands of their seniors and shy away from facing their female classmates.

“A student enrolled in our class, who was already suffering from mental and psychological problems, has become seriously disturbed due to this action of seniors. He was already taking antidepressant medication and after the procedure, not only is he hiding from people, but there are fears that he might do something dangerous to himself,” he feared.

Another fresher informed Pakistan Today that not only that, female students are also harassed by male students in the name of “coolness.”

“Cigarette smoke is blown on the faces of female students by seniors. Male seniors openly put their hands into girls’ bags. Harassment is also done in the name of ragging in various other ways,” he claimed.

When the said student was asked if he complained to anyone in this regard in the administration? he replied that filing a complaint could create a lot of trouble for them.

“It is not that the management is unaware of such activities of the seniors {….}. When we complain, it is a matter of unnecessary hostility. We have to study in this university for two to four years. Till now we have been silently enduring. Similarly, many seniors also give the impression of being a “blue-eyed boy” of professors. Even if one or two students are willing to file a complaint, the rest of the students are so young and innocent that they will cut off their relationship with the complainants out of fear. The environment of other departments of the university may not be like this, but since this is the department of fine arts, the senior students here do these acts by considering themselves to be very liberal and open-minded, but they do not know that some of our students are harmed by their actions. They have suffered from psychological traumas and have completely lost their self-esteem,” he continued.

Another student from the University of Punjab said one of his classmates was badly tortured during ragging and he was on anti-depressant pills later. “My class fellow who was a bright student till school could not overcome the harassment and embarrassment he had faced during ragging in this university. Later the student was put on medication and antidepressant drugs. This incident not only harmed the class fellow but also his parents who were extremely upset for their only child”, he said.

However, University of Punjab spokesperson Khurram Shahzad expressed unawareness of such incidents and said that no such complaint has ever been registered.

“If any student discloses the names of their seniors, action will be taken against them. The respect and dignity of all students are taken care of in Punjab University and harassment cannot be allowed to anyone,” he said.

Talking to a professor of another local university Asma Hameed, she said: “Since long, ragging has been a practice in different colleges, universities and hostels where usually the seniors try making fun of the newly admitted students through the means of verbal or physical exploitation and harassment. The term ragging is more prominent in the countries of this region like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh whereas in 1998, Sri Lanka outlawed ragging by passing the ‘Prohibition of Ragging and Other Forms of Violence in Educational Institutions Act, 1998’.  In 2011, even the State of Jammu and Kashmir passed ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Prohibition of raging Act, 2011’ to offer a ragging-free environment to fresh brains at institutes. Similarly, in 2021, under the ‘Prevention and Prohibition of ragging in Medical Colleges/institutions regulations, 2021,’ the Indian Punjab made it mandatory for all students to fill out an anti-ragging undertaking (affidavit). India has also promoted an anti-ragging helpline that is available presently, while Pakistan lags behind in legislation against ragging. But unluckily, Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) is inactive and apathetic in this regard. There is no anti-ragging NGO working in Pakistan and there is no anti-ragging mechanism at the provincial and national levels to protect newcomers. Reforms should be announced in this context,” she said.

Psychologist Tayyaba Owais believed that there was no legislation regarding the ban on ragging in Pakistan’s educational institutions, nor did the relevant institutions emphasize its prevention.

“Both civil and military fail to stop ragging every year in their educational institutions. According to my information, ragging is one of the major reasons for early dropout from cadet colleges running in medicine and engineering. Ragging completely changes the personality of a fresher and then he/she is inclined to pass on the same bitter experience to the juniors. Seniors try to convey a sense of seniority through ragging. Nevertheless, the post-ragging period is prone to depression and worthlessness. Ragging is at its worst for students living in hostels. Drug abuse in hostels is more prevalent as a result of ragging. NGOs, government agencies and the government should think about this seriously so that we can send useful youth into society instead of depression sufferers,” she said.

Shahab Omer
Shahab Omer
The writer is a member of the staff and can be reached on [email protected]


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