The ugly and the beastly
Universities are considered as hallowed institutions
of learning and academic pursuit. The cream of the students
sitting the Advanced Level is selected on merit to the
One would not normally associate such hallowed institutions
with the ugly and the beastly. Unfortunately the news that comes
from these institutions these days is about the ugly and the
beastly practice of ragging.
A practice started decades ago to "acclimatize" the raw
freshers to the University environment has undergone several
transformations over the years and now deteriorated to the level
of mental and physical torture. Incidents of ragging are so
brutal that one wonders whether it is the work of deranged
The Peradeniya University Acting Vice Chancellor has thrown a
new light into this ugly phenomenon. He sees a nexus between the
present strike wave in the country and ragging. The motive
behind ragging is to get the University closed and draw in the
students for political street agitations. Any observant onlooker
could see that only a handful of senior students engage in this
ugly practice. The ring leaders of this orgy usually are
political animals or leaders of political groups. Ironically
they choose ragging as a modus operandi in recruiting fresh
students into their political fold.
While there is nothing wrong in wooing and inducting fresh
students into political groupings what is undesirable is the
beastly means of doing so. Very often ragging amounts to inhuman
and disrespectful treatment, a violation of basic human rights
of the individual. It is an offence punishable by law and
discarded with scorn by civilized societies.
This ugly practice has to stop. It is the duty of the
university authorities and teachers to eliminate it from the
university system. In fact, the Government passed an
Anti-ragging Act some time ago though it is not enforced yet.
However, this is not a mere law and order problem. It is a
social problem too. Therefore, the problem has to be approached
from many sides. Some time ago the Peradeniya University started
a dialogue with students with a view to containing the
phenomenon, if not to eradicating it altogether. Perhaps, once
those students left the portals of the university "tradition"
may have re-surfaced.
It is up to the university dons and administrators to work
out a course of action to eliminate the practice of ragging.
Perhaps, some of them may be thinking that it cannot be totally
If there is a will there is a way. Is there a will?
Ragging is also a method of enforcing hegemony over students
by a certain political group. Hegemony prevents healthy dialogue
and kills the spirit of tolerance and dissent, so essential to
academic discourse. Further, it disrupts the university academic
calendar which increases costs and affects the students' future.
A true World Wide Web
Some say that the term World Wide Web is a misnomer.
True, you can browse the web even from Antarctica, but the Web
is overwhelmingly English. This is bad enough for those with
little or no knowledge of English, but what is even worse is
that all domain names (ex: www.xyz.com) must use English
alphabetic (Roman) characters. This does not reflect a truly
internationalized computer network.
But change is coming to the Internet at last. The private,
non-profit body that oversees the basic design of the Internet
voted yesterday to allow Web addresses be expressed in
characters other than those of the Roman alphabet, though the
change will initially be limited to domains controlled by
National Governments. Commercial sites will be next in line. The
board of directors of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers, or Icann, adopted the change at the end of its
latest semi-annual international gathering in Korea.
This is a significant milestone in the history of the World
Wide Web, which, by the way, is only around 15 years old. But
the Web has changed our lives irreversibly in those 15 years.
Today, virtually every bit of information we seek is literally
at our fingertips thanks to the Net. With yesterday's
development, more people around the world are likely to embrace
Among the languages that will benefit are Chinese, Japanese,
Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew and Korean. Most of the estimated 1.5
billion people online use languages such as Chinese, Thai,
Arabic and Japanese, which have writing systems entirely
different from English, French, German, Indonesian, Swahili and
others that use Latin characters. Sinhala and Tamil internet
names too cannot be far away.
Along with the internationalization of the Internet,
regulatory authorities around the world must make broadband
Internet access more affordable and widespread. The new
multi-lingual Web should be spun everywhere, no matter how
remote or inaccessible.