By Dyuti Sudipta:
I come from a small town in North Bengal, and when I moved to the capital city to pursue my graduation from the University of Delhi, the biggest concern on my family’s mind was that of accommodation. My father was worried about my safety in Delhi for it being infamous as the ‘Rape Capital’, and he arranged for my stay in a place that had a curfew timing of 7.30 PM. I haven’t still figured out the logic behind it. Now, if this doesn’t seem ridiculous enough, let me tell you that this was just for summer (April to September). From October to March, the deadline was to shift to 7 PM. On days like 15th August and 26th January, the gate used to be locked all day and no one was allowed to enter or exit. Nice irony for Independence Day, isn’t it? And on Valentine’s Day, the deadline was shifted to 5 PM, and no one was allowed to take a night out. On New Year’s Eve, while our hostel owner went out to parties with his family dressed up and glowing with happiness, we were locked up inside. If someone was late even for 5 minutes, the hostel owner used to call up our parents to tell them all sorts of obscene lies. We were not allowed to enter late even when we had to attend college fests. All of the fests take place in the winter semester, and we had to leave the concerts halfway due to the curfew timing. In case of a night-out, girls had to leave the hostel before 7.30 PM because the gate once closed wouldn’t open until 6 in the morning. If one had a train to catch that would leave at 3 AM, she had to wait at the station from early evening till the train arrived at the platform. This once happened to me on a chilly December night.
The day my third semester results came out, I was on the phone and a packet of cigarettes fell on the sofa from my pocket. One of the attendants picked that up, looked at me and reported this to the hostel owner. After almost ten days, my room was searched and nothing was found. At the end of the semester, I was asked to vacate my room. I moved out to another place where the situation was far better, and could finally start working and take part in all the activities that I wanted to as my movement was no more restricted.
The situation in the college hostels is nothing better than what I faced in that private hostel. The women’s colleges on campus have curfew deadlines varying from 7 to 9 PM. There are various other strange terms and conditions regarding taking maximum numbers of night outs in a month. Whereas there is no such restriction in terms of timings or night outs in most of the boys’ hostels or PG accommodations. The most horrifying thing about them is the lack of sensitization of the hostel wardens. One of my juniors studying in a renowned women’s college of North Campus faced the wrath of her hostel warden when she was just an hour late in returning as she was stuck in traffic. The warden called her parents up and said to them that their daughter was roaming around in skimpy clothes and was in physical relationship with multiple partners. Her parents, being from a small town and a very conservative background, were almost determined to call her back and marry her off at a tender age of 19. Her constant pleadings and help from a few professors have saved her future this time. Another of them was told that she was being provocative towards the male mess staffs as she came down to have dinner in a pair of shorts. In another college, a girl was greeted with, “Kiska bistar garam karke aayi ho?” (“Who did you sleep with?”) after she came back from a night out.
These are not scattered incidents, and keep on happening every day. We keep quiet, and that’s where we are wrong. We should report these cases so that the required actions are taken. The concept of safety has become so much discriminatory based on gender and the steps believed to ensure safety are often disguised under the concept of maintenance of discipline. There is no satisfactory answer for the lack of such measures in the boys’ hostels. The other thing that is necessary is gender sensitization workshops to be conducted regularly for the staff of the colleges and hostels. The authorities should arrange for hostels to accommodate outstation students. The Saksham Guidelines set by UGC should be strictly implemented in all the universities across the country that forbids the restriction on the movement of women in the name of safety measures in educational institutions. By restricting women’s movement, no progress can be achieved in any field, let alone education.