Violence on Campus

Of late some premier universities and engineering institutions are getting wide coverage for reasons other than academic excellence. They are rocked by politicisation of crime. The death of a 17-year-old 1st year student of Jadavpur University under mysterious circumstances has been hitting the headlines, both locally and nationally, for quite some time now. Local TV channels spend their prime time on the sensational news of ‘Death on Campus’ that triggered state-wide outrage from the civic society. Almost all parties, left and right alike, were out to derive political mileage by continually visiting the house of the deceased Swapnadip Kundu with the ‘noble’ desire of consoling his parents. But mere consolation cannot abolish rigging that was responsible for the death of the ill-fated boy.

Ex-facie police officials after their preliminary probe say Kundu was a victim of organised crime. That the seniors terrorise and torture new-comers in hostels in the name of making them ‘smart’ by way of resorting to ragging is a chronic disease. It is endemic. They create an atmosphere of fear- psychosis to force greenhorns to kowtow to’ unofficial’ student lords, past or present. They always target simple students with rural or semi-urban backgrounds. They extort money from them. Torture even takes sexual turn–it is a nightmare for a fresher. Something similar allegedly happened to Swapnadip also.

What lies behind the sadistic campus culture is class question. The gang leaders invariably come from well-to-do families while the innocuous and poor students willy-nilly become their foot soldiers and the process continues year after year. The authorities everywhere know it and yet they do very little to eradicate the menace once and for all. The case of Jadavpur University is no different. As a result it is business as usual after the subsidence of initial furore. The anti-ragging committees armed with court orders and UGC guidelines to curb ragging are there and yet ragging goes on unabated. Exemplary punishment in such cases is rare. In the end nothing changes.

Some people in power blame it on student-politics in colleges and universities. It is ludicrous. A docile student community is in no position to oppose the dubious education policy of the union government, affecting the larger section of pupils seeking higher education. They have right to protest the high-handedness of the authorities. They cannot be denied freedom of speech. To rebel is justified. It doesn’t matter whether they are students or workers. If ragging looks an unmanageable malady today it is because campuses are devoid of radical and rational politics.

In the late sixties and early seventies of the last century the world witnessed how left student movement in Europe and elsewhere became an important instrument in bringing about radical change in consciousness in society. Gone are the days of Tariq Alis who once motivated a generation in student community across the world. Students revolted against Vietnam War. They fought ecological degradation by the corporates and became vocal against human rights abuses by authoritarian regimes. These days student politics hovers around petty issues having little impact on the broader question of societal change for the better. In truth programmes of student organisations are too localised to address national and international problems. So the notorious New Education Policy of the union government virtually goes unchallenged by the students. Academics finish their duties by organising seminars in air-conditioned halls and political parties at worst issue some harmless press statements without showing any political will to mobilise masses, including student masses in their millions, against anti-people policies.

Strangely, incidence of suicides among students is on the rise. In an atmosphere of severe stress and strain they are committing suicides. After the IIT coaching hub of Kota reported 20 suicide cases since January 1 this year the Rajasthan Government has set up a panel of experts, educationists and stakeholders to take measures to ensure stress-free coaching and safe environment in PG hostels. It remains to be seen whether the panel can deliver reassuring results. How ragging leads to suicide of Dalit students and scholars is being highlighted in the media quite often. After all the tragedy of Rohit Vemula is not a closed chapter. It’s also a kind of ragging where caste, rather class dominance is apparent. Unless students rise against the socio-economic situation that produces social evil like ragging Swapnadip Kundus will continue to suffer and die.


Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 10, Sep 3 - 9, 2023