University students relate their ragging experiences

Ragging in universities: A black patch on the free education system in Sri Lanka 

Bullying in universities, commonly known as 'ragging' has continued to reveal the ugly side of the Sri Lankan higher education system. Over the years, ragging has reached newer levels of brutality, at times taking away innocent lives and permanently disabling others. In response to the previous article titled 'Ragging and Free education: A distorted correlation', several past and present university students related their experiences inside the university premises to Life Online. Their stories are as follows: 

*The names of students have been withheld for privacy concerns 

Raggers have no power outside the university: Rishani 

*Rishani, a first year student of the University of Peradeniya related her experience at the university. "During the first week, seniors 'welcome' us in a very pleasant manner, mainly because we go there with our parents. They help us in to fill registration forms and even address our parents like their own. This week is in fact called the 'mal sathiya'. When I went to fill the registration form, two girls accompanied me. During the process one of them said, "You can't dress like this." My father was next to me and he was quite impressed. I was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers. In fact they force girls to wear a blouse with a collar and a skirt. Since my father saw how they treated us during the registration he asked me to go to the hostel. So I paid Rs. 750 which is hostel fees for the year and obeyed his request. The people in my room were from poor families and they were helpless. Although I thought I have settled myself to stay here for the next few years, the ragging episodes then took a different turn." 

"Once we settle in our rooms, the next thing that the raggers do is 'escort' us to lectures. So we have to find a 'partner' and go in a line of twos for our lectures escorted by the seniors. Until the lectures are over, the juniors cannot even use a washroom. I realized that I couldn't be a part of all this torture and therefore my group of friends and I decided to ignore them. The ragging goes on till juniors step in to their second year and start ragging the first year students who enter the university after them. Freshers are given a formal welcome in the 'social' organized by the seniors after their weeks are fulfilled. Anti-raggers have the freedom to do whatever they want and the raggers find them to be a challenge. So my friends and I decided to be a part of the anti-ragging group. Another fact is that raggers have no power outside the university. The student union has a meeting and once lectures are over, the juniors have to be present at this meeting. So here they try to introduce the culture of the university and try to convince the juniors to support them. The raggers eventually locked us up in our rooms and they even give us a time to wake up. My friends and I watched everything but decided to stay away from the madness," Rishani said. 

Speaking further, Rishani says that there are three canteens called 'Gemba', 'Ala' and 'Vuse' within the university premises. "The 'Vuse' is like a small city which has been built quite extravagantly by the raggers. The anti-raggers are called 'Ala' and we are supposed to go to the 'Ala' canteen but we wanted to check out 'Vuse'. So one fine day, I went to 'Vuse' with three of my friends and had a juice there. Then one ragger spotted me and came to ask what I'm doing there. She spoke in a really filthy way but I didn't hesitate to respond. Afterwards one of their people took her away. Another hilarious fact is that juniors should address them as 'Uthumanani' or 'Uththamaviya' (which translates to 'Your honour' or 'Your highness'). The freshers are also given an English exam by the English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) and in this 800 people are in the basic level. In fact the second year students have no knowledge about English and that is one of their biggest worries. Since these students do everything else other than studying, they end up doing odd jobs within the university itself." 

"Juniors go through horrible experiences, some of which cannot even be related. "Sometimes senior girls watch juniors bathe, boys are asked to sit on bottles and do various other inhumane things just to please the raggers. After some time, I too couldn't handle the stress and asked my father to take me away from this menace. Quite surprisingly, even lecturers are involved in these acts because in some instances their marks depend on how well the juniors get involved in this 'sub-culture'. The monks too face a similar fate. Senior monks rag junior monks and if a monk becomes an anti-ragger he is not allowed to visit the temples within the university premises." 

"The Student Union - down to the raggers - protests about unwanted things but they don't even care about hostel facilities or the food in the canteen which could use an upgrade. On top of the education we get, students go through permanent depression after they complete their university life. No university wants to be ragged; in fact they all want to enjoy their days at the university. It is supposed to be one of the best times in your life but having to sacrifice it for a few maniacs is quite saddening," said Rishani in her concluding remarks. 

Raggers who are good in their studies don't have time to study: Kumudu 

Relating her experience while in her first year, *Kumudu, a second year student at UOP shared her memories with us. "They have something known as the 'batch fit'. On this day all girls should wear long dresses. Juniors have to eat from the same plate and they teach the boys about the sub-culture with filthy words. The boys have to teach these terms to the girls. If the juniors fail to respond when the seniors ask them these terms, they scold the juniors in filth. The juniors have to welcome them at any time during the evening once seniors return from a trip. They pass a toffee and all the juniors have to suck it. The freshers have to go to various meetings and those who don't like to go these meetings usually hide. Some students who don't like to rag others just leave their 'cause'. Most of the students join the ragging team because they are helpless. Those who are keen on their studies don't have much time to dedicate to books because they are always out there ragging someone. This happens especially to boys because they have to be part of the ragging team in order to avoid being bullied afterwards." 

My father sacrificed his life as a result of what I went through: Yashoda Wimaladharma 

Renowned actress and television personality Yashoda Wimaladharma, too has gone through a horrific experience while she was studying at the University of Kelaniya. In her story, Yashoda related the difficult times she went through, sometimes in fear and isolation. "My father was a Professor in Hindi Language at the University of Kelaniya and he wanted me to be a student there. But I wanted to do an external degree because I thought it would be better for me. But he urged me to get a new experience in the university and after much hesitation I decided to obey his request. Ragging was quite a common occurrence in the university system back then, mainly because of the upheaval of JVP riots and university students were brainwashed by their movement. As soon as I stepped in to the university premises, I was treated with nothing but ragging. They knew that I was the daughter of this professor and therefore they must have thought that I might be favoured." 

"I didn't receive the common rag, but they individually ragged me. This was done by the students of the Arts Faculty because they were from rural areas and most of them were going through a difficult time. After lectures they didn't allow me to go home and I had to go through some of the most brutal experiences. I remember my father waiting for me till they released me after their ragging sessions. I do not know why these students had such a mentality because they are taking away the opportunity of another student to learn and give something back to the country. By that time people knew me because I was acting in tele-dramas. But because of what I went through my father had a nervous breakdown and he was eventually bed-ridden. He had to retire one year before his service ended and he lost his memory in the end. One thing that these raggers kept telling me was that I have taken away the opportunity of another person who should have been a student in my place. I think that was such a stupid presumption but they kept that reason to bully me continuously." 

Speaking further, Yashoda said that then the media started to talk about ragging and her incident was highlighted in the media. "I cannot speak of certain things which happened to because they are extremely horrific. What I cannot forget is that my father had to go through all trauma. I have no personal grudge against anybody and victims should have a strong background to come out of it. I had a strong background and my career helped to move out of the trauma. Victims of ragging should be able to reach their goals." 

In her concluding remarks Yashoda said that she has forgiven everyone but she will never be able to forget what she went through. "Recently the UOK felicitated me and I accepted it in the name of my father and all victims of ragging. I do not want anything like that to happen to students in future and our responsibility should be to protect and encourage the next generation to do excel in their studies and give back to the country."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamanthi Wickramasinghe

A psychology graduate who eventually became a journalist to be a voice for unheard voices. A proud Sri Lankan - Thalassophile - Travel fan - Nature lover - Chocoholic - Extraordinarily loud - Frequent laughaholic. Follow me on Instagram - @kamzylifeTM or FB – Kamanthi Wickramasinghe

7 Comments

  1. SINHALE says:

    MORONS in the highest degree. Enjoying the free education to demonstrate their filthy minds

  2. Sandra says:

    In my opinion the Free Education should stop. When they have to pay for their education, then they will realise and study. Also the allowance that is given to them should also be stopped. It will be difficult for the poor that enter university and they will loose, but at some point they have to be taught a lesson, so Stop free education at universities.

  3. wet otter says:

    UCSC administration negotiated with senior students to continue with ragging for 3rd month. They are continue to rag students at 4th floor lecture theater.are you waiting for a death to happen and take action and say sorry???

  4. Kumar says:

    Unfortunately raging is not only practiced in the Universities. Every one is supposed to know the law and may defend in person. In practice does that happen?. There is professional apartheId and the rule of law applied upside down.

  5. Fedup says:

    I myself am a student of a state university and go through this every day. The level of brain washing that happens and the torture we feel cannot be said in words. The way each person goes through stress is different. What if someone is not strong enough to take it? I cry myself to sleep many days or go to sleep plotting ways on how to escape the next day, my parents are stressed as well because who wants their child to feel like being taken away to be murdered everyday? I was confused for a long time because I couldn't understand why people would do this, what kind of a society do we live in if we either get satisfied by hurting those who are less powerful or turn a blind eye and pretend everything is okay? For lies we say we live in a developing country and no wonder most leave. Who wants to live in a place like this? I can't concentrate in class and obviously studying is out of the question. Some of my friends left uni because they simply can't take it. These are valuable resources of the country, lost just like that. I myself question whether it's really worth coming here when there are so many other options available. But why should we be made to choose when this is a right we deserve. And not for any other reason but the students themselves making it difficult for others to stay. If simply the authorities took steps to stop this just think how happy and free thousands of students will be! Students are pressurised from both sides as lecturers want us to maintain 80% attendance while the raggers forbid us to attend classes. What are we to do? It's a huge joke and the whole situation is simply hid by a veil. I've started to realise that if the authorities did want to do something they could've long time back. So many reported and unreported cases and yet no thoughts given. So many people speaking up for us but no real action taken. I'm more angry at the authorities than at the raggers because it's all in their hands. Complaining does not solve anything because sure, some of them will be punished but what happens to the rest of them? The whole batch will be at their mercy then. It's like the authorities WANT the rag to be there. For god knows what reason. Maybe it's because we did the crime of studying well and needs to be punished for it. Or simply because we were born human. I don't know. It's sad to know so many others will go through this and reading these stories hurts more because what did anyone of them do to be treated like that? Why so barbaric? So inhuman? Why is no one addressing this issue which has continued for years and years? I hope someday someone will take the rightful steps to stop it till then university will be a jail to most students.

  6. Sylvia Haik says:

    As usual, these morons have misinterpreted "Ragging". The intention of ragging, which is welcomed in most other countries, is in organising events to raise funds for local charities. That would be a beautiful thought. In our country ragging has taken a wrong dreadful turn and should be stopped, at least to halt wasting our meagre resources, because it is our free education system that encourages this bullying. Our students should instead be granted loans to pay for their education. The loans are to be repaid after the student graduates and finds a job with sufficient income to repay the loan. This will be a wonderful incentive to study and not waste time "Ragging".

  7. Hasith says:

    I gave up my university education because of these morons. I entered the university ranking in top 20 all island. Harassment of students especially from poor families are unbearable and they are helpless. I just couldn't bear that anymore. I left university and ended up in USA on a scholarship promising never to set foot again (Unfortunately). I complained many times only to end up with death threats and calls to my mom. Furthermore there are some lectures in investigation panel who leak the information to the seniors so that they can come behind us. Now I work as a lecturer in university in USA, sometimes I meet the people who ragged me and they say how nice the people are in US universities when they welcome foreigners. I wish they learn a lesson.

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