Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On Student Centric Violence and Culture of ‘Ragging’

The Island, December 13, 2011, 7:00 pm cross Sri Lanka, a spate of University-centric violence has unfolded. The Arts Faculty of the University of Colombo popularly claimed as ‘anti-ragging,’ remains conspicuously silent. However, within the confines of a hallowed institute of education, students are insulted, coerced and scared out of their wits by seniors who claim the exercise is one of familiarisation and not hostility. In little over 30 days since entering University, the students have gained a wealth of extra-curricular knowledge. How many words or phrases in the Sinhala language may express disgust at ‘loose’ women or prostitute? The university definition even encompasses students who wear high-necked blouses and skits that sweep the floors! Where exactly does the city fade into the village? The line is blurred, that the 1st years’ greatest enemy, a group of fist year students who choose to label themselves quintessential ‘villagers’ come from homes as close by as Homagama! What’s more, they have effectively conned the system, into receiving hostel facilities, in spite of this proximity between home and university. Yet another example of duplicity arises where the ‘ watchdogs of university culture’ choose to prevent students from wearing rings or chains – accessories which, especially in the context of girls, are used not so much as an ‘indication of prosperity,’ but as a means of warding off ‘apala’ (ill fortune) or preventing superstitions of isolation from affecting them. Personal choice is a nullity here – and every thing comes with an ulterior motive. As a female student, I have questioned, repeatedly, why skirts? Why not long skirts? Or dresses? A friend answered in kind, describing how, in a skirt , she was forced to mount a table, and parade for a group of boys who seemed to her crazed! Other girls were made to crawl the floor of the passages in the building, or stared at, inappropriately, not in the face, but the chest! I have personally faced the threats of physical violence if I am to arrive at university with astrological rings, pririth nool, or even so much as nail polish. Authorities, once informed of these events , offer lukewarm responses. Lecturers are sympathetic and proactive, the Ministry of Higher Education, vehemently displeased yet inactive and Vice Chancellor remains in constant denial. As the situation worsens, and seniors carry brickbats, knives and blades at all times ( the latter too, which I have seen, myself), students are terrified. And no hope of restitution appears to be available in the least! First Year female Student, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo

No comments: