Ten thousand miles at a glance
Languidly stretch out
Undulating curves beckon
The dullest eye captivate
Could this be real or make believe
Dazzling green, daring vermilion and glorious yellow
Complementing, vying to celebrate
Nature's extravaganza - beauty aglow
A soft grey haze descends o'er hill and valley
Floating silently beckoning dusk
A gentle veil of rain drops sadly
To us all the message gives
A sudden stream of tiny stinging demons
Cross paths - angered by obstruction
As if to prove the impermanence of bliss
Destroy the purity of meditation
Nature's beauty bestowed upon us
Alas, disturbed by mutual dislike!
Is it a means of keeping in balance
All life nurtured by mother earth?
The article in The Sunday Times of October 25, regarding "Ragging in the University" prompted me to relate the bitter experience I had when I entered the University 22 long years ago as a Medical student in the Peradeniya Campus. The nightmare I had been through kept haunting me for many more years even after leaving the University. I have not revealed these horrors to anyone because even the memory of it is so humiliating and bitter.
From the very first hour I reported to one of the halls of residence in the Peradeniya University, I realized that I was not going to live with human beings. The groups of "Seniors " who tormented me for the subsequent three weeks were a bunch of mentally disturbed sadists. Within the first hour my unsuspecting parents left my room, joyous that their brilliant, hard working eldest son was now in the haven of the educated, I was asked to strip naked. Thereafter it was a never ending series of sadistic torment, which lasted three long weeks.
Group after group, these perverts entered our rooms, and we were ordered to perform various acts, mostly sex orientated, for their enjoyment. These were sprinkled with acts of severe physical toture. Crawling on the naked hot cement in the Hilda Obeysekera Hall corridor with many others stark naked till your elbows and knees bled, crawling under the furniture pretending that you are en route to some country on a scholarship, doing hundreds of pushups, situps, climbing on to and getting down from a high table pretending that you were on a pilgrimage to Adam's Peak till you dropped down in exhaustion were just some of these "friendly acts" in the course of "getting to know each other".
Every morning, we were woken up around 5.30, and then were herded into the courtyard between fifth and sixth wings of Hilda Obeysekera Hall for the "Common Rag". We were ordered to strip naked, and were taken through an exhausting series of physical exercises. In between some of our tormentors picked one or two victims and they were asked to have an ice cold bath, only to return to the courtyard to continue with the ragging. This common rag lasted anything upto one hour, and a similar activity took place at dusk. Then, stinking of your sweat, splattered with mud, bleeding from a multitude of abrasions, it was time for you to rush to your morning ablutions, breakfast and of course, lectures.
Another cruel act performed at that time was the "castration". The victim was forced to place his scrotum in a half opened drawer. He was then blinfolded. After a very convincing account of what is about to happen, the table top was hit hard with a plank. I was a victim of this (It was performed in Jayathilake Hall, by a Final Year Medical Student, now a Medical Specialist himself!) and I can still feel the shock and the immediate relief which followed. Anyone with a weak heart could have had a heart attack. How on earth can such an act help to get to know each other?
Even the dining hall was not spared of this mental and physical torture. I was asked to sing while eating, eat with my plate on my head, with my plate behind me, but these appeared harmless when compared to the torturing which went inside rooms. I can remember being ordered to polish my plate, that is to finish everything on the plate, including karapincha, rampe, egg shells, fish bones, etc., etc. The night was feared by all. There were various kinds of vulgar contests, in which one was asked to perform various acts, including masturbation, display of your private parts so that these "seniors" could find a winner. Where was this held? - not in a torture chamber - but in the common room of Hilda Obeysekera Hall, where the subwarden slept just one floor above.
Ragging in all forms must be banned. Students who are caught ragging the freshers must be expelled from the Campus. One can never describe the agony a newcomer goes through in these three weeks. The tough may survive but most carry deep scars till the end of their lives.
We now know how an innocent, brilliant Engineering student who was the apple of his parents eyes, was ragged inhumanly till he died of renal failure. How long are the law makers and the University Dons going to sit on this issue? How many more deaths and hours and hours of agony and humiliation do we want before this is banned completely?
On October 28th night student leaders from the Peradeniya Campus made strong public pronouncements on Television (MTV) condemning ragging, but tried to make out that the type of ragging to which the dead student had been subjected to does not occur within the campus. Did the spokesmen honestly believe what they were saying?
This type of statement or rather mis-statements of fact, is nothing new. It has happened over the years. But, on the rare occasions when disciplinary action has been taken against students, who after an enquiry have been found guilty of ragging, student leaders have called strikes and pressurized the authorities - usually very susceptible to such pressure - to either reduce or even cancel suspensions of guilty students.
Can these same student leaders state publicly what action they or their predecessors took in the past, and what action they took in the recent past (before this tragic and deplorable incident) to prevent ragging in the campus. Did they go public, on the campus, condemning ragging?
Surely, it is one of the functions of a student leader worthy of the title 'leader', to prevent anti-social behaviour in his own backgarden! The student leader who tried to say that the type of ragging to which the late student was subjected does not occur in the campus, should know, unless he is deaf and blind, that the same "torture techniques" are used in the halls. It is well known that "push-ups" to the point of exhaustion, and continued "push-ups" after the vicitm is "revived" is standard procedure of the campus "torture chambers". It is indeed strange that that student leader is so ignorant.
We are aware that over the last two years or so, there has been a small "anti-rag" group, a minority to which the student leaders certainly do not belong. Because, if the leaders are members of this goup, then it should not be a minority, assuming that the leaders in fact represent the majority of students. On the contrary, this minority "anti-rag' group has been at the receiving end of intimidation, ostracization and actual interference with their studies.
Those student leaders who spoke so strongly against ragging still have a chance to prove themselves, rehabilitate themselves; prove their honesty and demonstrate clearly to the public that they really meant what they said on television.
Let them ensure that all ragging ceases immediately. If they have been elected as leaders by the majority of the students, then they should be able to exercise their authority in respect of the elimination of a socially reprehensible and unacceptable practice, over the majority of the students. And if the leaders and the majority join the "anti-rag" group, then the problem is solved.
So, student leaders, prove youselves! Prove that you actually have been made a leader by the majority, and not by a small power-hungry intimidatory minority.
Apart from the physical dangers of ragging, this Orwelian "Big Brother' concept is a most dangerous facet of ragging. The rag has been used, and is used as a means of obtaining a pliable, commandable, manipulatable, non-questioning, docile body of students; students who in an instant can be mobilized to walk out of classes, demonstrate on the streets, without even knowing what they are demonstrating about - convenient foils for any power-seeking anti-social group. The "initiation ceremony" or rather process, is a mind controlling, mind destroying tool.
Let me remind the student leaders who went public on television of their responsibility towards the public they addressed!
More letters to the editor * Who are Sinhala Buddhists? * Bravo! fight to the end * What are we heading for? * Devolution: vital for peace
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