Posted on September 28th, 2022


JVP has cleverly used the disorientation felt by the rural, low income, district quota student when he comes into a university, to gain power in the university. These district quota undergrads   have many problems. They have difficulty in understanding certain technical modules, and are hampered by a lack of English. Their z-scores are low, and they are selected for subjects which are low in the academic ranking.

The university authorities do not take any interest in this group.   They do not guide them. JVP steps in through IUSF and fills this gap. The IUSF provides the freshers with a feeling of security, said the UGC survey. These freshers, coming from poor homes, with limited objectives   are made to feel that they belong to a club.  This is strengthened by the use of a special vocabulary. Ragging areas are known as ‘punya bhumi’. Teaching is known as tela bedanava” collecting money is known as ‘keta selevima.’

Most students feel lost when they come into university, especially students coming from rural schools. ‘They welcome IUSF guidance, as a controlling force   and cooperate in the rag, where possible.  When asked girls say that they wear the prescribed dress and slippers because they wish to.

 IUSF through the Students Union, administers a 3 month familiarization programmes for freshers  with the tacit approval of university authorities.  This project is   mainly targeted at freshers in the Arts Faculties, where JVP support is strongest.

During this period, the new entrant is given a new identity, introduced to the administrative setup, the facilities available such as library, hostel and medical services and how to use them, at lunch time they are given talks on University history and traditions,  said undergrads in a  talk show. 

Weeramunda observed that thanks to this familiarization course, done by the ragging team, freshers know the names of VC, Deans, Heads of Department and lecturers. They know who is in their batch, how to cooperate with other students, how to use the library, how to live in a hostel, how to use common property and to share equipment such as heaters and how to take medicines. Senior students take them to the medical center.

The IUSF lectures to freshers before and after lectures and also at intervals. This was essential said IUSF at an interview in 2017. When first years come to the university, the seniors go and speak to the students for one hour from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Problems that arise during their university education are addressed. First years need this help.   

They taught us the history of the University. They gave us a book and taught us about the university .They taught us certain terms that helped to us to adapt to the university culture. Seniors taught us how to get along with the university culture, said grateful students responding to the UGC survey of 2018.

This rosy picture is supported by statements in two separate surveys. Weeramunda observed that Wijekoon Banda (1995) has examined the ragging project and justifies the phenomenon in the following terms:

It should be seen as a part of the subculture to which university students belong and being so makes sense only to the participants of that subculture. It has its own set of rules (for example, that it should be done by second year students, that there should not be any body contact with the persons being ragged, and that it should be done by people who were ragged earlier. It is functional since it creates a homogeneous atmosphere among a socially heterogeneous student population coming from various parts of the country and from different socioeconomic levels and thereby helps to reduce conflict among students . It is a part of the socialization of students into the university subculture since it leads to indoctrination of proper modes of conduct among students and between students .

The university cannot do these activities as it has no knowledge of who the seniors are”, explained a student informant. Every new student has a card that is his identity for the rest of his stay. He or she is known by the card and not by real name. She said she enjoyed this period and called it the best time in the university”.   

Students do not appear to be able to recognize what ragging is or whether particular forms of harassment constitute ragging, concluded UGC.  These gullible freshers are told that ‘it is the administration that has asked us to rag you, you must submit  and they do. These people don’t want to get out of their own hole, observed a disgusted undergrad.

Recruits to the pro-JVP factions in all three universities surveyed have come from rural schools and belong to low-income families. They mostly follow Arts courses, recorded Weeramunda. Students from rural schools are more prone to join the JVP, he said. Sinhala medium students come from a good rural culture, but they lose it after 3 months, said an informant (University of Colombo, 2007)

JVP exerts considerable control over activities in ‘their’ part of the university. JVP throw out anyone who is found inside the campus after 9.30 pm said informant from Sri Jayewardenepura. (2007). After 6.00 pm the JVP activists are in full control in the university said informant from Kelaniya speaking in 2007. The security services are scared.  JVP drink liquor and smash the bottles on the premises.

Peratugami which controls the IUSF runs a parallel administration in Ruhuna, complained the authorities in 2019. They control certain outcomes. If Peratugami says no, students will boycott a play or whatever. Any events organized by neutral students are suppressed or sabotaged by staging protests to coincide with such events.  In one university Peratugami opposed the drama festival and started bucketing students to reduce their participation in the festival. Opponents are hounded out (yaka gahanava) .

The university faction of the JVP is connected to the main JVP. The university recruits help to obtain funds for the main JVP. .JVPers in the university are expected to take a till and collect money from the area around the university .The money goes to the JVP. A person from outside the university comes to collect the money. There are fulltime workers assigned to each university and they are given a collection target for every year.

The ragging was carried out by the senior students who are led by the Student Unions, who in 

turn are led by the Inter University Federation of Students (IUFS) which is controlled by the JVP. Ragging is getting discrete, undergrads said in 2020. The more sinister aspects of ragging take place away from the public eye,  in safe houses. The leaders were elusive.  

The two political parties, JVP and the Frontline Party are always behind ragging. They just want to increase the numbers. They are not interested in changing the system. I have been staying in the hostel    as sub warden since 2005 and I have heard everything they say, said an academic.

Rag is not just song and dance.  Public think this. They don’t believe the violence said angry undergrads. Weeramunda observed that JVP programme of ragging rituals subjected its victims to stress-producing situations. The majority of the freshers are scared, but submit as commanded by the seniors without complaint thinking that this torture will last only during the rag season.

There is assault and harassment. They would tear our T-shirts, harass and assault   us undergrads said. They would make us repeat words and sentences, exactly for ½ hour.We are shaken, kiyapan, kiyapan they go on. After that for three months we were subjected to inhuman treatment.

90% of the students are against the rag said Vice Chancellor, University of Ruhuna, Prof. Sampath Amarasena. Undergraduates wish to study without being disturbed by the JVP. They complain to us, we can’t study, they take us away forcibly.  At Ruhuna 19 students were arrested and remanded for ragging, recently, but the campus did not erupt in support. Instead they attended lectures and for the first time the Arts faculty classes were full, he said.

There is resistance. .Undergrads are angry. There are many methods to expose the ones who are involved in ragging such as Hiru CIA, Ukussa and other such programs. So, can’t we use a proper method and expose these raggers, they asked. It is difficult to obtain evidence of the rag, because we are not allowed phones or electronic devices during the rag.

All universities come under police divisions and university authorities have to submit to the authority of the police when necessary.  Undergrads are entitled to go the police with their complaints, and the CID can be asked to investigate. Undergrads can also go to a magistrate if appeal to Police fails. They can  go to Attorney General, if all else fails.

Some succeed in their complaints. In Ruhuna, three freshers were beaten by 15 raggers for coming late for some activity. The three had ‘come from good schools’ and they complained to the VC (2019). 19 undergraduates were arrested in university of Ruhuna in 2019.

Undergrads observed at talk shows that the raggers though bold but also nervous. They know that the ragged students can rebel. Therefore after the ragging, a representative of the JVP would come to console them,  and tell them not to get upset.

  Undergrads also observed that the raggers themselves were scared, especially when confronted by confident   students.  Darsha Udayanga had reported raggers who had assaulted him for sitting for sitting where he should not sit, while waiting for a lecture to start. I was furious. They had no right to hit me. We can stay anywhere we like in the university” announced Darsha. Darsha rang the authorities.  The student who had hit him ran awayand I realized that they were scared though they did these things.

The ragging team had its procedure ready for instances like this. Sensing that Darsha could be an obstacle to ragging, the   student union leader had met him and apologized,  and said this will not be repeated. Darsha had  on another occasions, identified  a undergrad who had ragged him and the student was suspended,  then  the  President of the Student Union, Arts faculty division, came to him and asked him to withdraw the complaint saying the ragger was poor.

The public continue to be critical of the ragging. When   University of Ruhuna cracked down on ragging in 2019 there was a demonstration of undergrads against the charge of ragging and condoms. This could be seen in You Tube https://youtu.be/3DOqNTZAMH0  (2019). There was a huge line of students parading through the campus. The VC was referred to as ‘thopi’ by a girl undergrad in a long and virulent speech. 

 There were 356 comments and they were highly critical of the girl’s speech. Most comments were unprintable. .Here are a few printable comments which indicate the attitude of the public to ragging in university.

  • මේකටද ආණ්ඩුවෙන් නොමිලේ උගන්වලා දුප්පත් දෙමව්පියෝ නොකා නොබී ඉගැන්නුවෙ මේකට දැන් උඹේ ප්‍රදර්ශනයෙන් චරිත ඝාතනය වෙලා ඉවරයි. දැන්වත් මොලේ කල්පනා කරනවා. ඉගෙන ගන්නට ගියානම් දේශපාලනය සම්පූර්ණ විශ්වවිද්‍යාල වලින් අයින් කරන්න.
  • මුන් උද්ඝෝෂණ වලට ගියහම වතුර හෝස් වලින් නෙමෙයි, flamethrowers වලින් ගිනිතියල පුච්චල මරන්න ඕනෙ ​. එක එක අයිතීන් වලට මුවාවෙලා, අහිංසක අම්මා තාත්තාගෙ දරුවො දුක් මහන්සි වෙලා උසස් පෙළ ගොඩ දාගෙන කැම්පස් ආවහම උන්ට පාඩුවෙ ඉන්න දෙන්නෙත් නැතුව එක එක වධ හිංසා දීල​, එක එක මලවිකාර දේශපාලන වැඩ වලට බලෙන්ම සම්බන්ධ කරගෙන​, අන්තිමට ඒ ළමයින් ගෙයි, ඒ ළමයින්ගෙ පවුලෙ අයගෙයි ජීවිත වනසන මානසික රෝගී! මුන් මැරිලම යන්ඩ ඕනෙ !
  • මේ වගේ රැග් වෙන්න කැමති අය ඉන්න කල් මේ රැග් කිරිල්ල නවත්තන්න බැරි වේවි… ඒවට කැමති පිරිසක් ඉන්න බව මේ දේවල් වලින් පේනවා
  • පාළකතුමා කියපුව සහතික ඇත්ත.මගේ යාලුවා රැහුණ එකට ගියේ සතියක් ගියේ නෑ ගෙදර නැවතුණා මුන්ගෙ මේ රැග් එක නිසා.

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