India battles 'ragging' in schools

India's problem with 'ragging'
India's problem with 'ragging'

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    India's problem with 'ragging'

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India's problem with 'ragging' 02:16

Story highlights

  • In India, "ragging" is a bullying or hazing usually in college
  • Aman Kachroo died after a ragging incident at his school
  • His father has tried to create awareness and opened a call center for victims
When Priya and Rajendra Kachroo dropped their only son Aman off at medical school, they were both proud and tired. They had to hurry home to care for an ailing elderly parent.
"It was a fast drop," recalled Aman's father, Rajendra Kachroo.
Neither had any idea what their son was about to face or they never would have left him there. Aman Kachroo, 19, a freshman (or "fresher," as they are called in India) was about to embark on a torturous six months that would end his life.
Aman, along with his new dorm mates, suddenly became the target of "ragging," a form of bullying or hazing usually inflicted by upperclassmen on freshman. Taller than his classmates, handsome and fluent in French, English, and conversational Hindi, Aman was wise beyond his years, his parents say. He had always been able to sort his problems out himself so they couldn't imagine him being intimidated.
"There is a whole guilt factor involved in all this that I didn't know [what was going on]," his mom Priya Kachroo said. "Really, I couldn't understand the size of this problem."
His parents knew something was going on when Aman came home from Tanda Medical College in Himachal Pradesh State and his hair had been sheered off.
His parents said he told them that he was being ragged but not to worry about it because it would end.
And it did. For him, it stopped after one night in 2009 when he was woken up by a group of seniors who made him and all his dorm mates stand in a line and then began beating them.
Aman later died of a head injury.
His father talked to him on the phone in the hours before he died and heard about what happened.
Then, abruptly, his son was gone.
When relatives went to Aman's dorm room to pick up his things, they found a note with the word "ragging" circled in the middle and words and phrases surrounding it such as, "Prison like torture," "dictator" and "Please talk to us don't slap us." It was Aman's innermost thoughts about ragging and how terrible it felt.
In the hours before he died, he also managed to write a letter of complaint to police describing what happened. His father later read the complaint and was horrified.
"Not easy even to think about it. It's not easy. It is very difficult," Rajendra Kuchroo said tearfully.
Aman's death two years ago triggered national outrage. Four medical students were later convicted of culpable homicide.
But his is not the first, nor the last case to end in tragedy in India. Over the years, ragging on college campuses has resulted in dozens of student suicides, students being admitted to mental institutions, or students simply leaving prestigious schools that less than 1 percent of the population can get into.
Rajendra Kuchroo says since his son's case he has seen more than 30 reported suicides allegedly linked to ragging.
The Kachroo case did effect some change, in part because Aman's father decided to dedicate his life to ending the torturous behavior in schools. Now, some campuses enforce a zero tolerance policy on ragging.
And Aman's father took the case to the country's Supreme Court and managed to get an order setting up parameters on ways to prevent ragging.
Now, two years later, inside a bright blue- and orange-colored room, a half-dozen young people are chatting away on phone headsets. But it's not a typical Indian call center, apparent with the initial phone greeting:
"You have reached the Anti-Ragging Helpline," a young lady chirps.
The helpline was just one part of Rajendra Kuchroo's plan to do something about ragging. Students can call anonymously to lodge complaints about any ragging behavior. In its first six months of operation, he says the center received 150,000 calls from students saying they were victims.
"Those numbers in the last two years have gone to 250,000 calls with 850 serious complaints, and we still believe this is only the tip of the iceberg," Rajendra Kuchroo said.
He says he'll keep fighting every day in India until the day the phones at the complaint center fall silent -- because students are no longer being victimized by ragging at school.