In Abuse, School Life

Ragging Vs. Hazing, What is the Difference?


Ragging is a serious problem that people may face when they are attending college, or perhaps even when they are in high school or even their place of work. Ragging is an action wherein a person seeks out someone who they perceive as weaker or inferior (this is often dictated by physical appearance, economic status, or level of seniority). This type of action is usually associated with people of great respect or “age” in a group, often colleges, with college seniors being among the most likely group to take part in ragging. While it may seem similar to the act of hazing, ragging has some subtle differences to set it apart (though hazing is just as bad). Now, let us examine the history of ragging, its definition, and the movement that stands opposed to such behaviour.

Ragging definition

The ragging meaning – or specifically, the rag meaning – is as follows (According to

Ragging (verb)
“to subject to a teasing, especially in an intense or prolonged way”

What is Ragging

In essence, ragging is behaviour people – typically those who have power and/or authority – to try to use and abuse an underclassman in order to make themselves feel better, or to “put that person in their place.” Generally, ragging can take the form of many things, including (but not limited to):

  • Insults (typically based on appearance, alleged intelligence, race, gender, and more elements)
  • Running errands
  • General verbal abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • And others

Ragging in India

The history of ragging dates back to Great Britain, specifically in English colleges and universities. After fermenting in these institutions, the practice then began to move down south to Indian institutions. The impact of the culture of ragging was so severe in these Indian institutions that it found itself dominating their culture as well. The basic justification at the time for ragging culture was to teach social hierarchy to students, thereby helping them to better understand how things work in general society.

Differences between Ragging and Hazing

Ragging and hazing are somewhat similar, but they are ultimately fairly different. Ragging and hazing are both based around abusing people who are or are perceived to be on the lesser rungs of a group, but in large part, this is where their similarities tend to end? Hazing – often practiced in countries such as the United States – typically focuses on forcing people through grueling, embarrassing, and sometimes physically painful initiations in order to have them join certain societies. On the other hand, the purpose of ragging was for the upper class of the educational system to reap the benefits of the lower class of it, without any such tangential benefit for the lower class at all. Ultimately, the practice of ragging is considered rather traumatizing, and the people who are subjected to this treatment often consider it to be harmful and unhelpful to them to learn anything about society.

In the past 10 years, there have been more than 24 deaths linked to ragging. These deaths have often been linked to suicide, though some have been homicide instead. One such suicide was of a student who was forced to bathe in urine, and another homicide was the direct cause of brain hemorrhaging as a result of being beaten so badly.

Thankfully, wisdom prevailed, and it was decided that this kind of behaviour is dangerous to self-esteem, proper development, and physical/mental health. In large part, this kind of behaviour in recent years is generally considered to be rather abhorrent, and any attempts to enact such barbaric culture and behaviour are given the harshest of criticism and tone towards the abusers.

Anti Ragging Movement

In recent years, the act of ragging has caused anti ragging movements to come into the forefront in order to try and squelch this kind of behaviour. Many of the most common arguments made by these anti ragging groups involve statements such as “ragging causes a disparity between the upperclassmen and the underclassmen”, “ragging can result in severe harm or even death of said underclassmen”, “ragging can create emotional deficiencies and severe inferiority complexes within the underclassmen”, and many more.

Starting in June of 2009, anti ragging help lines were put into place in India in order to offer assistance to students who were suffering from ragging. This organization is known as the National Anti Ragging Hotline (NARH). The hotline preserves anonymity to protect the ability for complaining students to feel safe from their abusers. This policy of anonymity was adopted to make sure that students can continue attending the same school as their abusers.

Upon sending in their complaint, the complainants will then have their issues forwarded after about 15 minutes. At this point, the complaint is forwarded to the Head of the Institution and the local police authorities through phone and email. After an inspection of the complaint, the institution and the police authorities will then attempt to take proper action against the offending person.

In spite of the stated good nature and good intentions of the national anti ragging hotline, there has been a certain level of controversy associated with it. Assertions exist that claim that the hotline does not do an adequate job of collecting phone calls; specifically, they claim that only 0.01% of these phone calls are recorded and collected. Despite this controversy, the general perception of the positivity and the effectiveness of the hotline is considered to be ultimately good for victims of ragging – even if there are problems that need to be fixed with it.

A number of celebrities have come out against ragging and ragging culture. These people include famous Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, cricketer Suresh Raina, California filmmaker Sujit Saraf, and many others – especially actors in the Bollywood film industry.

Attempts at justification of ragging

A lot of people and cultures that take part in ragging activities will come to its defense on the logic that it is a tradition – that they want to keep it alive for future generations, in part because they experienced it themselves. The act of ragging – like hazing – is said to build character in under grads who serve the seniors of the college that they attend.

The problem with this attempted justification – that it builds character or that it maintains a tradition – is that all character-building isn’t good, and not all traditions are good, either. There are a lot of very bad things that we have called “tradition” in our past, and in large part, we have tried to make a point of abandoning them. Therefore, the fact that something was a tradition does not justify further use of this tradition to encourage dehumanization, violence, or whatever else ragging may entail.

Possible effects on people who are being ragged or who have been ragged in the past

Ragging can cause people to experience severely negative reactions, due to the stress and frustration that comes as part of being someone who is the target of ragging. Being a victim of ragging can result in experiencing a number of mental or emotional complications, which can include one or more of the following:

  • Gain a crippling inferiority complex
  • Attempt to compensate for their feelings by inflicting ragging on someone else
  • Internalize their stress and anxiety that forms as a result of ragging, resulting in that stress and anxiety bottling up and becoming worse
  • Reduced drive in their prospective career or general life

In closing

For as much as people like to argue that concepts such as ragging have their place in modern society, we simply do not have the time or energy to be dealing with such abusive practices, even if they have been “handed down” the ladders of society for so long. Like any form of bullying – including the similar act of hazing – we need to stomp it out as quickly and effectively as possible. Only then can people comfortably attend college without having to worry that someone is going to “put them in their place.” No matter what, if someone is attempting to rag you, you should tell someone immediately. And if you are attempting to rag someone… all you can do is look at yourself and ask – “why?”

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