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VIT University Trying To Suppress Voices Of Dissent Against Gender Discrimination On Campus!

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By Nanditha Sankar:

In 2012, it was Shaheen Dadda and Renu Srinivasan.

In 2013, they are two students from VIT.

In 2014, it could be anyone of us.

This refers to some of the victims of harassment who were targeted, silenced and punished for exercising their freedom of expression on social media, and the growing possibility that it could be any one of us facing the same in the days to come.

VIT

It has become common practice to use social media not just as a platform to extend friendly ties across the global diaspora, but also as a conduit for voicing one’s thoughts and ideas. While almost everyone with an account can be seen giving their take on everything from the Miss USA debacle to the national tragedy of Sachin’s retirement, a dangerous issue has reared its ugly head among the users of social media. In 2012, two young girls, Shaheen Dadda and Renu Srinivasan, were taken into police custody; the properties of their relatives were vandalized and the girls were forced to deactivate their Facebook profiles. All of this for their views on Mumbai coming to a standstill following Shiv sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s death. The incident triggered an out pour of support for the young girls and outrage at the fickle-mindedness of the general public.

I thought that all was well with the country till I came across an eye-opening petition for change in a popular website that roots for humanitarian causes. A week ago, two girls from the prestigious institute VIT, Vellore were sent back home. The reason being that they had put up a conversation with a college official and sought an opinion poll on the kind of treatment meted out to the girls in the hostel. The common citizen who is entitled to the fundamental right of freedom of speech has been taken for a ride yet another time. When the constitution of India grants freedom of speech and expression, with reasonable restrictions that it does not amount to rabble-rousing or hate-speech, why should innocents be put through such an ordeal?

The answer to this question has two parts, the growing intolerance among Indians and the much-debated and discussed issue of gender discrimination. To being with the latter, it must be noted that the girls were reprimanded while seeking the opinion of their peers about different benchmarks set at the hostel for girls and boys. While it may be argued that every institution has its students’ interests at heart, it is unfair that while their male friends get to move around the campus without much restrictions, the girls have a stricter regime to follow. If we are to become an egalitarian society, mere loud talk of gender equality will not suffice. Institutes could have helpline numbers round the clock, compulsory gender sensitization modules and other measures for the students to feel safe, but denying the girls their basic freedom and opportunity to go and explore the city during weekends will only cause more harm than good.

As for tolerance, we are a society that preaches one thing and practices another. While we take pride in our textbooks from yore, the fact that they all preach tolerance is conveniently overlooked upon. The keystone behind Indian epics has been that of tolerance, and it is the very same element that is missing today. A simple rumour is enough to start a riot, a harmless update of one’s opinion is enough to earn a place behind the bars. How can we call ourselves ‘progressive’ and ‘forward-thinking’ if we stifle the voices of the people? In the words of former American President George Washington;

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
― George Washington.

Click here to sign the petition to the Chancellor of VIT university demanding to let these young women continue their studies without fear of reprisal, and promote open discussion of university policies, to assure VIT women the same opportunities as their male peers.

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  1. Suhas Ar

    Disappointing trend to say the least. If we are immune to criticism, we will live in our own bubble which will one day, surely burst!

  2. Arathy Anil

    So happy to see people speak out against the double standards against girl college students! People always ask- “Why do women need to go out after 6?” What I have to ask is, why not?Why should anyone bother?They are adults of 18+ and has the right to do that does not hurt others! But no one in this moral-eating country can understand that!

    1. Nanditha

      You sure do have a point there. The “Why do girls?” question is repeated over and over again. In a society where some people come up with statements like women wearing “provocative” clothes lead to earthquakes, it is surely going to take some time to change the mindset of people. But, we can always keep trying.

    2. Dharmadhikari

      Yesterday , a woman of 17 years went to meet her male friends at 8 pm n she was raped by her friends , a case has been lodged against the culprits , i have one question , tell me the mistake of parents and her family members , why should they suffer ?

    3. deb

      Really!!! ‘Dharamadhikari’???!!!! Ur thkin of the suffering her parents are goin thru???? Wat abt her!! She is gonna be scarred for life n it’s not only because of the assault on her but more because the society is flooded by ppl wid ur mentality!!!!!!! Instead of fighting the cause (uncontrollably requested men n boys wid the will power of a dog) they wanna put the girls in jail!! Seriously, it’s the same concept on which zoos are established- to keep animals safe from poachers n hunters! That place is horrible I agree n VIT does hav a few good rules to combat the problems wid that place! But, their implementation is beyond imaginable! Not to mention the behavior of the ppl! The way they talk to women does not in anyway show that they (the so called caring administration)! They look at u n talk to u like ur being paid by da hour for being an escort!!!!!!

  3. Murugesh R

    It is time companies like #HP, #IBM, #Oracle #TI etc etc who pride on gender equality and empowerment started avoiding taliabisque engineering colleges like Vellore Institute of Technology…or VIT….only then the jokers who run the place will learn how to treat girls properly…..please forward this and sign the poll…I suppose women organizations need to take this issue of harassment seriously…..

    http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2013/10/vit-university-trying-suppress-voices-dissent-gender-discrimination-campus/#comment-60670

  4. asdfgh

    Wonder why no one from VIT comments here or shares it on social networking sites?
    I am from VIT so i am giving this comment from a proxy server and that too from incognito window. Though i finished my education there still I am aware of the lengths VIT can go to, to find me and punish me anyway possible. Everyone in Vit is shit scared to opine themselves.
    Any problem we face in VIT, there is no one accountable for the mistake of VIT. Whomever we ask for help says exactly “Am i responsible; then why are you asking me? Where is your ID card? I don’t have the power to help you. GET OUT”. Only the family of Vishwanathan has power to do anything. Even the pro-Vice Chancellor has no power; in fact he was given the post when Kapil Sibal put VIT in B grade universities of India because the whole university is run by one single family. For names sake the post was created.
    They take pride in telling everyone of their FFCS(Fully Flexible Credit System), which they did not implement for many years and we were the ones to suffer badly for their blunders and then there is no one to ask. Even parents are not answered and rudely asked “Should we run our University or NOT”.
    Rules keep changing every 20 days or so and the students are always doubtful of whats going to happen. You can get expelled from hostel for celebrating your birthday, or coming late to hostel more than 3 times(during which you pay fine).
    This is only some information to show everyone what VIT is and this particular incident in the article is one among thousands which luckily surfaced, even suicides are suppressed in VIT.
    Finally look at this: http://gvsampathvit.blogspot.in/

  5. asdfgh

    sorry *implement properly(FFCS)

  6. A Student

    http://chn.ge/1bxVld8 . Sign and share the petition to give a shape to our Voices!!!

  7. deb

    Actually, I have been through this at VIT myself! My whole idea of doing research during my masters was shattered because all experiments needed to be completed by 8pm!!!! I should tell my bacteria to grow within that time only. I cud not go out to see the doctor or buy my medicines. They have the best interests in heart is so not true. N if u hail from a highly urbanized place like Bangalore, ur doomed! I was asked by someone why do I hav to go home and he does not like me goin home because I am from ‘Bangalore’!!! The main problem with Vit is simple- just like our country, it is being run by a bunch of illiterate, rather uneducated individuals! Try communicating with them and you will see urslf wresting with a pig- you get dirty and the pig enjoys it!!!!!!

    1. sai kiran sharma (@wolf1711)

      Pandey and me used to lock ourselves in the hostel room from outside (with the help from batwara) 😛 and drink vodka and beer smoke and the warden would be confused all the bloody time 😛 it was year 2006, until I left for Germany.

  8. nikki

    i am a pass out frm VIT and I think these girls have done right thing and they should be allowed to continue their studies …Its the fundamental right to freedom and this is true that there are lots of restrictions on girls as compared to boys in VIT. They say that these people do for our safety…well we are grown ups and can take care of ourselves..our parents send us to VIT coz they trust us and not the wardens…

  9. Tarangini Kumar

    Well , the problem runs much deeper than this. I am a student of Ajay Kumar Garg Engineering College – the best ranked private college affiliated to the Uttar Pradesh Technical University (now GBTU ) . I together with my three (girl) friends were chucked out of the Campus hostels on charges of inciting the students to take to the roads!

    The Director ( an IISc,B’lore pass out and retired from a high post in the Indian Army ) told us ,very nonchalantly, that it took him 8 years as the Director of AKGEC to build the reputation of the college & since we , by organizing a full-fledged( some 150-200 odd students showed up with placards and a lot of sloganeering followed outside the Gate) Student Protest on NH-24 which even got coverage in the local newspapers, had washed away his records of never having had a student protest in the 8 years of his tenure as the Chair , he would just chuck us out! He went on to tell us that students didn’t matter to the University!! (and mind you all of us were academically sound and big time into making contributions to the college in sports, in dramatics, in writing for the college mag , organizing events , contributing in technical support teams & hence among the popular people on campus).

    My HOD ( dept Electronics & Communication ) , even threatened me of a rustication ( which i didnt take seriously 😛 but that’s exactly what happened at VIT this time). Needless to say, the authorities did as much harm as they could to our last semester percentages , project marks etc ( let them , who cares) & hollered up & abused & threatened our juniors & batchmates who participated in the protest . Our parents were sent a notice and we were declared ‘ banned’ from every inter or intra college events , 15 GP marks deducted and a strict vigil allegedly was kept to monitor our actions & Oh yes , all this apart from being asked to vacate the hostel within a weeks’ time .

    Though i knew what was being meted out to us was unfair & maybe not even legally allowed but the questions & dilemmas remained – Whom to ask ,?Where to go? Can we seek legal help? Was it bad that we protested against a girl (batchmate) being harassed by a couple of students from a nearby college , blatantly in broad daylight , that too in the lane strewn with make-shift food shops RIGHT outside the AKGEC girls’ hostels ? And then the guy friend being made the victim & being thrashed with belts , shoes? The very lane which ALL of us – girls & boys – have to cross like 10 times to reach the Highway ahead ? Is it not the responsibility of the college authorities to ENSURE such a lane is safe , by deporting their own guards or maybe discussing the issue with the local police?

    And what really got all students up in arms against the admin was the cold , indifferent & callous treatment that was offered to this victimized couple. After suffering this trauma for nearly 20 mins , when the duo went to the Proctor , this is what the man in power ( also an ex-army man ) had for them – ” we are not responsible for what happened , the land isn’t under our jurisdiction . Besides, the girl must be in some kind of a relationship with those guys ” ( Oh man , this had to be the last nail in his coffin! )

    Now the reason behind the angst of all the students was pretty much evident & justified . They needed uncomfortable questions to be answered by the management . They needed to know that if AKGEC authorities weren’t responsible for this vital piece of land , then who is ? Why hadn’t the authorities done anything concrete enough to ensure the safety of their students when they were fully aware about the general scene along that lane ? Why were the authorities holding students responsible for what happened ? Why were they shirking their duties & trying to brush an important safely issue conveniently under the carpet?

    So , this is not a one-odd problem that one of us in one part of the country is facing . Its a much deeper & uglier picture . We all have experienced this high-handedness at the hands of private institutes . Students & teachers of private institutes aren’t aware about their rights . Everyone i asked told me ” there are no rights in a private college . They have the power to do what they deem fit ” . I hope , through YKA we can get this issue out in the open for all to see & hope those who are in a position to take this up , do so asap .

  10. Shiladitya Mitra

    Its not gender discrimination..Because of political affliations, and dominating presence in the city of Vellore, including influence amongst the lawmakers and law-protectors, the authorities of VIT doesnt take any criticism against them positively and crushes them…It was the same when I was there 5 years back, and even we had to face bias of being not from the state! Though this situation changed later as the majority of students and money comes from students outside the state, but I guess the overall attitude hasnt changed..On positive side, VIT does take education and related stuffs seriously and supports students, but any administerial matters related to VIT are neglected.The incident is indeed unfortunate, and we alumni might take it up.

  11. Srikanta Raju

    If u don’t want to be in restricted and secured area ,then leave the campus and go home .If VIT does not provide these security measures for girls,then u will cry for the later disrespectful things happen .So don’t feel them as restrictions and even boys are not given freedom.If u want to discuss on some issue ,then don’t raise the topic “Restrictions on Girls ” and discuss the topic not ginning irrespective points .
    I am from VIT ,Vellore.

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