Campus Violence can be in the form of sexual harassment, ragging, caste or political fights which often result in death or serious injury. Educational institutions which are supposed to enlighten students on social vices and enrich their knowledge and morality have been struggling to curb the menace of campus violence. The socio-political landscape of India further contributes to the factors instigating campus violence.
Campus Violence can be of different types such as:
1. CASTE CLASHES: Caste discrimination and violence is deeply rooted in the Indian society, whose manifestations are seen in College campuses, especially those situated in rural and sub-urban areas. Caste violence can either manifest as ragging and harassment of targeted students or as full-fledged armed clashes amongst students.
The constant harassment of Dr Payal Tadvi who belonged to a Scheduled Tribe, by her seniors resulted in her killing herself is one such example. The 2008 armed clash between two caste groups in the Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University is one of the vilest in the history of campus violence.
2. POLITICAL CLASHES: India is a politically aware country with its youth actively participating in political activities. As Justice V R Krishna Iyer puts it, ‘to banish politics for an 18-year-old student is to deny him the fundamental opportunity of becoming a good citizen to vote’.
However, with the increasing instances of politically motivated assaults and murders by students, we are forced to reconsider banning political activities inside campuses. Kerala, where student politics is an integral part of campus life, is seeing increased intolerance and violence perpetrated by student politicians.
3. RAGGING: What started as a friendly, harmless ice-breaker between juniors and seniors gradually turned into an abusive, inhumane practice of seniors establishing dominance over their juniors, using humiliating, verbally and physically abusive activities such as stripping, punching, forcing juniors to drink urine, etc. Students have either been brutally killed in the name of ragging or forced to commit suicide to escape the humiliation. The UGC Regulations On Curbing The Menace Of Ragging In Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, the Indian Penal Code and other Institution specific legislations have provisions prohibiting and criminalizing ragging. As per UGC Regulations, every university should constitute an Anti-Ragging Committee and every student at the time of admission should submit an affidavit stating that he will not participate in any kind of ragging activity and also the institution should publish the names and contact numbers of the Anti-Ragging Committee members.
4. SEXUAL HARASSMENT: Due to the societal attitude towards sexual harassment, victims hesitate to come forward to complain against their harassers, especially if it is of fiduciary nature like a student-teacher relationship. Sexual harassment on the campus is a widespread issue further complicated by societal taboos. The UGC (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2015 lays down the responsibilities of educational institutions in preventing sexual harassment in their campuses.
Causes of Campus Violence
Most educators and education researchers and practitioners would agree that campus violence arises from a layering of causes and risk factors that include :
1. Cyber Abuse
Since the 1990s, the Internet, blogging, e-mail, and cell-phone text messaging have grown to play significant roles in the erosion of campus safety. Cell-phone text messaging and e-mail provide additional platforms that support a new form of violence cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when young people use electronic media to taunt, insult, or even threaten their peers. It is not only easier to commit due to the instant access to social media, but also harder to evade and control, compared to other forms of crimes.
2. Environmental Impact
Race and ethnicity, income levels, and other measurable elements have often been singled out by public heath experts as risk factors that can contribute to anti-social behavior, from smoking and drinking to violent behavior and suicide. A child who starts acting violently will often do so during periods of unstructured and unsupervised time. Juvenile-justice statistics show that, lacking after-school supervision, youth violence rises to above average rates between 3 and 7 p.m. Violence has also been linked to the transformation of communities. Constantly shifting school demographics often reflect larger upheavals as communities undergo changes in size, economic well-being, and racial and ethnic mix.
3. Alcohol abuse and other substance abuse have contributed hugely to the increase in crime rates. Most students, who have been involved in sexual assault cases, have reported that they were influenced by alcohol and substance abuse to perpetuate these crimes.
4. Theft and burglary crimes are rampant in the college hostels during the deserted times. These are the times when most of the students are in their classes. On the other hand, most sexual assault crimes are committed in private, isolated places inside and outside the college campuses.
Apart from the above mentioned causes are several reasons for the rise of campus violence.
Laws Against Campus Violence
The government enforces the Clery Act and Title IX upon universities in hope to control and reduce the amount of violence committed on campus and raise legal awareness. Universities and practitioners also develop multiple tiers of prevention methods and programs in hope to stop the increasing rate of campus violence.
The majority of the time, universities focus their attention on tertiary prevention methods, which are methods that are put in place to deal with the consequences of the incidents already happening on campus. They set up remedial programs and supportive services that target post-trauma counseling, protection, medical care, etc., to help relieve the consequences and effects those violent events have on the students.
Efforts put toward educating faculty, staff, administrators, and students about campus violence and prevention, and raising awareness of the concurrent issue, have also been exerted and come in the form of existing courses in universities, including the fields of sociology, psychology, criminology, and women studies.
Most campus crimes are committed within the college vicinity. College administrators have confirmed that campus crimes are perpetrated within their colleges and their neighboring communities.
To end these crimes, college administrators, law enforcers and student leaders should be more agile and innovative in the development of new solutions to these complex challenges caused by campus crimes. Solutions to these crimes should be achieved without compromising the state of our learning institutions.
These measures may be gained through introducing and restructuring social clubs in colleges. Through this, students’ idling time will be reduced. In this essence, social clubs should come up with innovative and attractive programs to keep the students engaged. Similarly, through the college counseling programs, more students should be identified to offer counseling services to other students. It is believed that the student-to-student counseling approach will be effective in reducing the increasing cases of college crimes.
Similarly, through this approach effects of alcohol and substance abuse will be discussed openly enhancing awareness among students.Another solution can be achieved through community workshops. Workshops can be conducted in the community to educate the community on the significance of maintaining a peaceful society. Through these workshops, parents will be advised on the need to counsel their children to be morally upright individuals.
Incidents relating to Campus Violence In India
•On 27 October 2007, Hindu right-wing students killed a police officer during a student clash inside the NSS Hindu College in Kerala. The officer was hit by a wooden plank by the students.
•In 1990, a student from Delhi called Rajiv Goswami self-immolated himself to protest against the reservations for the backward classes. This incident led to countrywide agitations against the then Prime Minister V.P.Singh.
•In July 2018, an Islamist student leader stabbed and killed a communist student leader in Maharajas College, Kochi, Kerala. The incident took place when the two groups of students had a quarrel about displaying posters inside the campus. In March 2018, communist student activists attacked the residence of the principal of the MES Asmabi College, Kerala and wounded the principal seriously. The attackers were not arrested because they immediately escaped to some foreign country.
•On 12 July 2019, communist students stabbed a student inside the University college campus in Thiruvananthapuram. The attack was carried out for the reason of “singing songs inside the campus along with lady students.”
•On 5 January, 2020 in the evening a masked mob with iron rods attacked the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and injured students and teachers.
Will Legislations Alone Prevent Campus Violence?
Focusing on the issue of campus violence solely through the lens of legislation, while overlooking the psychological and social aspects would do very little to make campuses safe for students and faculty. Likewise, a blanket ban on campus politics too will fail to address the core issue – the growing intolerance and hate amongst students. Educational institutions should focus more on inclusiveness, starting dialogues on taboos and problematic issues and sensitization programs to foster awareness, brotherhood and tolerance. There are allegations on institutions for not acting on sexual harassment complaints or gagging the victims for the sake of their reputation. Under these circumstances, mere laws and regulations will be futile unless the institutional ecosystem and attitude change from conservatism to liberalism.
In conclusion, college administrators have the ultimate responsibility in ensuring that college related crimes are reduced. They should provide appropriate security within all campuses. Similarly, all colleges must ensure that their security systems function effectively. In so doing, safety performance would be enhanced.
Equally, college Safety departments should provide appropriate training to their security officers to reduce conflicts between them and the students. In addition, college administrators should work collectively with the law enforcers in identifying criminal students in and within their campuses.