Argha Banerjee

Ten year old Oindrilla Das’s tragic demise following her trauma of being ragged in her school has not only grabbed headlines, but has also exposed the deep lacunae that plague our educational system, especially at the school level. Oindrilla was apparently locked inside the washroom by her seniors, only to be rescued much later, following which she succumbed to psychological trauma.
What followed was even more sad and unfortunate. Television screens flashed the sordid reality of militant parents vandalising the school campus, with small chairs meant for use by toddlers being improvised into weapons of campus destruction. A section of parents, with the aid of some outsiders, ransacked school property including the laboratory, the computer room and the staff room. Some teachers of the school were even forced to face the ignominy of seeking refuge under the benches to save themselves.
The violence unleashed by the parents of the Christ Church Girls’ High School in Dum Dum, including the harassment of the principal (in spite of her apologies and offer of resignation) is only one of the several disturbing developments that have stormed campuses in the state of late.
Oindrilla’s ragging case is not a solitary or isolated one. There have been several instances of late. On 10 September this year for instance, Debojyoti Mondol, a class V student of Ashoknagar Secondary School in North 24-Parganas was tied up, thrashed and thrown into a local pond by two of his seniors studying in class VIII. These seniors had been relentless in their attacks: tying the hapless target with wires, attacking with bricks and allegedly dragging the boy to a toilet and forcing him to drink urine. Such aggressive behaviour inevitably makes one wonder as to what propels school going teenagers to indulge in such horrendous scales of cruelty and barbaric violence?
A little bit of prudent soul-searching would reveal that instead of making accusations against a single target or making a scapegoat out of an individual, a holistic attitude is the need of the hour.
In this context, it is essential to note that not only the individual victim’s trauma is an issue of concern, something that must be analysed and probed for solutions, but the mindset of even those students who tend to perpetrate such extreme forms of torture or violence on innocent helpless victims need also to be searched and scrutinised with utmost care and consideration.
For a school goer’s proper health: mental, physical, and academic; all stake holders ranging from teachers, parents, school authorities, peer members on the one hand to friends, non-teaching staff members, psychological counsellors and the medical support team on the other, all need to co-operate and participate in order to strengthen and ensure a proper balanced upbringing of the child. Children journeying through adolescence need special attention and nurturing. Passing the buck will not provide any long-term remedies; it will only aggravate proceedings in the long run. Careful and cautious treading of all stake-holders along with patient co-operation and support from all quarters is the need of the hour.
Violence on campus – be it in the form of ragging or something else – especially as witnessed during the last few months in the state, has several reasons for alarm bells to ring, sparking various socio-political debates to ponder over as regards the drifts and cross-currents currently plaguing the educational system, not only at the school but also at the higher education level.
Rise of violence in the form of ragging at the higher educational institutions has forced the Ministry of Human Resource to open a nation wide anti-ragging helpline. Call reports expose an alarming tale as regards the reality of ragging in the state. Reports confirm that in barely two months, over 40 complaints of ragging have been registered in over 30 colleges across the state. Petrified of complaining to the educational authorities and in order to safeguard their identities perhaps, the victims filed their complaints directly at the national anti-ragging helpline in most cases.
The last two months have been particularly notorious as regards the ragging menace at the higher educational level.
Swift action in some cases has been possible largely due to UGC’s toll free anti-ragging helpline that also ensured anonymity for the victims. It is perhaps for this reason that the anti-ragging helpline has come across as a student friendly measure and met with so much success.
To be concluded
A Commonwealth Research and Charles Wallace Scholar to the UK, the writer is the Dean of Arts and currently on the Faculty of the Department of English, St Xavier’s College, Kolkata.