Bangladesh: Familiar ragging menace

EducationWorld February 2022 | International News Magazine

As the chapter closes on the 2019 killing of Bangladeshi student Abrar Fahad, advocates say universities should be doing more to prevent violent behaviour still rampant on the country’s public campuses. Last December, a Dhaka court issued death sentences to 20 students at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) for Fahad’s murder. But the culture of so-called “ragging” or “hazing” — brutal rituals often involving physical violence — continues to be widespread at many institutions.

Aniruddha Ganguly, a student in his final year at BUET, told Times Higher Education that since this incident, the culture at his university has radically changed. “Right now it’s totally different — we’re probably the only university where any freshman doesn’t have any fear (of hazing) and the cost was a life,” he says.

But according to him, this is thanks to student advocacy following Fahad’s death rather than initiatives taken by the university. Ganguly is unsatisfied with the lack of punishment of administrators and faculty, who he says should accept responsibility for preventing the kind of violence that led to the fatal attack. “The university for a long time lived in blissful ignorance of what’s going on in the halls. It’s their job to keep students safe. I think they failed horribly in that,” he says.

Ganguly describes incidents in which students would be taken outside for punishment, often for perceived slights or because they held different political views. “Since residence hall corridors are all camera protected, they’d take you up on the roof… five seniors would line up 30 juniors,” he recalls.

Adnan Chowdhury, a senior and criminology student at the University of Dhaka, agrees that there should be more accountability among universities for violent behaviour, but believes solutions that target the perpetrators of crimes rather than the root causes will be ineffective. Instead, he suggests that systemic changes are needed to solve university problems. For a start, he argues, student arms of political groups should be banned from campuses.

According to Chowdhury, Bangladeshi students are undeniably drivers of political action in the country — including in Bangladesh’s fight for self-determination in 1971. Nevertheless, student groups affiliated with larger political organisations should not have a place at universities.

But even at BUET, which for now is managing to stay free of violence, Ganguly says it is uncertain how long student culture will remain free from hazing. “I’m afraid it can return any time — what’s stopping it from returning unless there are additional steps taken?” he asks.

Also read: MCI received 6 complaints of ragging in medical colleges this year

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