Jadavpur Univ nonchalant about ragging even after fresher's death

by IANS |

Kolkata, Dec 3 (IANS) The ragging menace in Kolkata’s iconic Jadavpur University (JU), that led a first year undergraduate student to end his life in August, has still not opened the eyes of the university authorities to the happenings in the hostel, especially the main residence.

Last week, a complaint was filed by a first-year post-graduation student residing in the same hostel where the tragedy took place in August, in which the student stated that he was being subjected to mental torture by the senior inmates of the hostel.

In his complaint, the student informed the JU authorities of his decision to leave the hostel and also quit the university since continuing his studies while staying outside the campus as a paying guest was not possible for him.

There are quite a few similarities between the kind of mental torture and humiliation that the post-graduation student who quit JU and the undergraduate fresher who ended his life in August, were going through.

The deceased fresher, who was studying Bengali literature, was being harassed by his seniors because of his shy nature and hesitation in interacting freely with girl students. He was often labeled as gay because of it and reportedly a few hours before he committed suicide he was frantically telling his hostel mates, “Believe me, I am not gay.”

The nature of complaint of mental harassment in the latest case is more complicated. First, despite being a newcomer to the hostel, he was made the convener of the hostel mess committee and forced to do the grocery shopping as per the instructions of the senior members of the committee. Then he was abused by the seniors in the worst possible language either about the quality of the food or the size of fish that he had purchased.

In the end, unable to put up with the daily harassment and abuse he quit JU.

Insiders, especially representatives of JU Teachers’ Association (JUTA) have claimed that the fresh complaint proves that ragging of newcomers by seniors continues unabated in the students’ hostel.

JU insiders said that had the university authorities been serious about strictly enforcing the anti-harassment measures suggested by the national anti-ragging committee constituted under the chairmanship of former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director RK Raghavan, then things would have been different.

One of the main suggestions of the committee was separate accommodations for the freshers and senior students. Many reputed colleges, universities and educational institutes around the country were able to bring hostel ragging down to zero through this strategy.

However, questions arise on how a first-year undergraduate student and a first-year post-graduation student can be treated at par by a university?

JU insiders, who are keen for the university authorities to tackle the menace of ragging effectively, offer their own suggestions.

“Just as a first-year undergraduate student getting admission to JU from any school or college with higher-secondary academic facilities is a fresher in the true sense, similarly the concept of fresher should be applicable for those students getting admission in the first year of their post-graduation course from any other university.

“In reality, a first-year post-graduation student is also a newcomer to the university and its hostel just like a first-year undergraduate student. So the hostel accommodation for such post-graduation freshers should also be isolated,” pointed out an aggrieved JU insider.

The second issue that plagues JU is the absence of a permanent Vice-Chancellor for the last six months, which is resulting in several academic and administrative decisions being delayed.

Even though the West Bengal Governor, CV Ananda Bose, appointed an interim Vice-Chancellors after the fresher’s death, that was not a solution in the true sense since the authority of an interim VC is limited and he is not even getting the permission of the state education department to convene working committee meetings.

Meanwhile, as the debate over who is to be considered a fresher and who is not, rages on, the woes of the newcomers at JU show no sign of abating. One can only hope that the ragging and harassment of newcomers does not claim another life and the JU authorities wake up before that.

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