-Jayapaul Azariah, Ph.D.
Dept. of Zoology, University of Madras - Guindy Campus, Madras 600025, INDIA
An incident, that happened on 6 November, 1996, but came to public knowledge on 18 November 1996, sent shock waves through society. It was a festive season in India, Deppavali, the festival of light overcoming darkness. But it was a season of torture and gruesome cruelty to the family of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Madras. His only son, a first year medical student in the Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, was brutally murdered at the age of 18. The intervening 12 days was a dastardly period of utmost and intense physical and mental torture and terror to the bereaved family who missed the murder-victim during the festive time.
It happened at a hostel of Rajah Muthiah Medical College. The head of the victim was severed and was dumped in a pond over-looking the hostel. The trunk was placed in a plastic cover and concealed in a cardboard box. It traveled from Annamalainagar to Chennai. The hands and legs were found at various places. At Chennai, the unclaimed trunk traveled in a bus which ironically traveled in front of the Vice Chancellor's house and later his office, about 12 days before the crime came to light.
During the 1960's the common words with college students were "proxy" and "bore". But now "copying" and "ragging". Ragging is a western, college custom of socializing a fresher to the college environment by the seniors. Ragging is rampant in professional colleges and in hostels. In the Indian context, it is taken to the extreme and continues for a long time. The ragging act extends from making the juniors to dance naked, to do the record work of seniors, through homosexual acts. In this case the murder-victim was asked to keep jumping holding a chappal in his mouth. The refusal to clean the footwear using his tongue led to the ghostly murder by a karate blow.
Disappearance of persons is not new to the campus. Occurrence of missing persons has been reported. It is not the first time that such murders were committed in the campus of an university. Two professors are still missing.
A decade ago, a seaside change was made in Indian educational system. With a change in educational policy, the Government gave permission to start "self-financing" courses by colleges which started the thirst for commercialization of higher education. In such privatization of education, the college management may charge a sum of Rs 20,00,000 for a seat. Only the rich can get these "payment seats". Due to heavy payment, standards may not be enforced. Many demand a pass in the examination. Parents ask "What sort of education are we providing to our medical students. Are we safe in sending our children to hostels?"
In this context it may be recalled that the Ionian Greeks like Hippocrates recognised the need for good and proper conduct in the medical profession. The Hippocrates oath emphasizes the preamble of philanthropy (the love of mankind) and to do no harm. It is high time that bioethics is introduced as a subject in the curriculum of Arts, Science and Medical courses.
Secondly, the UN declaration on Human Rights and Dignity of the human being states that "Parties to this convention shall protect the dignity and identity of all human beings and guarantee everyone, without discrimination, respect for their integrity and other rights and fundamental freedom... (Ch. 1. Article 1) and everyone has the right to respect for private life... The barbaric act is a violation of human rights and disrespect for the principles expressed in Hippocrates oath.
Ragging does impinge on human rights. Ragging interferes in the right of a person to say NO. It is a coercive act to humiliate a person. Does it generate revenge? The juniors repeat the same acts when they become the "mighty senior". Is it ethical to force a person to engage in homosexual act or to dance naked before an audience? What sort of value do the doctors place on human life?
- Masahiro Morioka
International Research Center for Japanese Studies
3-2 Oeyama-cho, Goryo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 610-11, JAPAN
Last year we had an international conference on school bullying in Japan, and we found that other countries such as England, the USA, and Scandinavian countries have bullying problems. We have been thinking that school bullying phenomena are very special to Japan, but this is not true. Today every Japanese is worried about bullying at school or workplace, whereas we haven't found effective solution to stop this. This must be one of the most important issues in our life ethics.