Thiruvananthapuram: The ragging tentacles seem to have spread out of the college campus. The much abused act has taken a new but more serious form in parts of Kerala by the name "marriage ragging", a practice of playing pranks and giving shocks to the couple on the wedding day by the groom's friends.

Beginning as a 'tension reliever' some time back, it is increasingly becoming a social menace, with several incidents of harassing couple and their relatives pouring in.

There are instances of it resulting in abrupt end of marriages, wrecking of family relations and pushing people into depression and psychological disorders among couples.

Till some years ago, harmless acts such as singing parody songs, displaying placards with comic illustrations and humorous punchlines or bursting crackers while the groom ties "mangalasutra" over bride’s neck were done as a diversion during marriage ceremonies. They were funny and enjoyed by family members and guests as they added to the festive mood.
But gradually, it started assuming a serious dimension with the groom’s friends tending to misuse the freedom by drunken revelry and indecent behaviour, turning weddings into a tense occasion.

Often, they cross all the limits and their misdeeds range from offering alcohol-mixed juice to unsuspecting couples and throwing it into the bedroom during the first night. At times, the revellers had to be dispersed by intervention of village elders.
According to Justice D Sreedevi, Chairperson of Kerala State Women’s Commission (SWC), disturbing reports of "marriage ragging" had come to her notice and if they were true it was something that should be stopped.

"Though SWC has so far not received any formal complaint, we have heard of that. If the free-for-all is allowed, it will spoil the very sanctity of marriage. The auspicious occasion is becoming traumatic for many now due to the vulgar deeds of a few. If stern steps are not taken, the problem will soon spread to all parts of the state," she said.

A few weeks ago, marriage of a middle-class girl in Akaladu village in Thrissur ended at the wedding hall itself in the face of violence and vulgarities indulged in by the groom’s friends. One of them garlanded the bride before the groom tied the "mangalsutra."

The act of the hooligans plunged the couple and family members into deep shock. Then the 'raggers' and the relatives of the bride clashed. Police had to be called in to bring the situation under control after some of the bride’s relatives were injured in the quarrel.

Soon enough, the bride declared that she was not going to live with a person who could not control his friends from spoiling the most auspicious moments in her life.

There was a case of pranksters making the couple sport a garland of empty liquor bottles. In another instance, the vehicle the couple was travelling in was blocked by revellers and they were made to walk all the way to the groom’s home.
While a bride lost her hearing due to the bursting of crackers from close range, another had to undergo treatment for depression for months after the trauma she suffered on the marriage day.

"Most of these things are done under the influence of liquor. Alcohol consumption is increasing among youngsters resulting in mental degeneration. Unfortunately, women are being victimised in all such cases," Sreedevi said.
Psychologist Dr Krishna Prasad Sreedhar says weakening of moral values and growing character disorders among youth are basic factors for emergence of such abusive practices.

"Anarchy and proneness to criminality are on rise in our society. Many youngsters above 18 suffer from the problem called Anti-social Personality Disorder. Even those hailing from well-to-do families, educated and intelligent could fall prey to that" Sreedhar, former Head of the Department of Psychology, University of Kerala, said.

"People suffering from the problem are capable of doing any mischief. They are deprived of emotions like sympathy or empathy or any regret for what they do. Majority of those involved in ganging and group crimes have anti-character disorders," he said.
Realising the consequences of the new practice, political parties and youth outfits including CPI M’s youth wing DYFI have come out strongly against the wedding-day ragging.

"Marriage raggings" are mostly reported from northern districts like Kannur, Kasargode, Kozhikode and Malappuram.

(Agencies)