Time Zones

On Patrol to Prevent Hazing

By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, August 9, 2008

NEW DELHI -- It is the third day of college, and the sprawling University of Delhi campus is teeming with new students looking to make friends, fill out forms and familiarize themselves with their new lives.

At 9:30 on the windless, humid morning, two female commerce undergraduates nervously walk into their college with heads down. They pass five khaki-clad constables standing guard against the newly outlawed practice of "ragging," as hazing is called in Indian English.

This year, colleges in the capital are for the first time trying to stamp out hazing, using closed-circuit TV, police and special squads of volunteers. But some seniors aren't ready to comply.

" Fachchas!" screams one of them to the two undergraduates, using Indian campus slang for first-year students.

"Are they calling us? Will they rag us now?" asks Rupika Pant, 17, a short girl in blue jeans and a brown T-shirt, clutching her bag tightly.

"Don't turn to look, keep walking," whispers her friend Nihar Goyal, 18, who is wearing a traditional long tunic and pants, hastening her steps.

But within seconds, senior students surround them, ready to tease, taunt and torment.

"What are your names?" one of them demands. "Don't you know you have to say good morning to senior students?"

"Do a hot Hindi movie song for us. Show some moves," commands a young woman in the group.

Pant and Goyal play along, singing and trying to move their bodies in a snakelike hip swing common in films from the cinema industry known as Bollywood.

Everybody laughs. "Go now, and don't breathe a word to anybody that we ragged you."

But not all the seniors are so bold. Nearby, a group of them sits at the cafeteria watching new students.

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