On the night of 21st Sept, a person claiming to be Akhil Choudhury from ABVP had called up and threatened two activists of Pinjra Tod with sexual abuse and violence for ‘daring’ to put up posters on top of ABVP posters. Our posters had obviously been torn down. As if the ‘Wall of Democracy’ now belonged to them. The show of support and solidarity we received from students the next morning, when the police were pressured to register an FIR, despite their reluctance, was incredible.
This aggressively masculine nature of student politics in Delhi University, where threats of sexual assault and silencing of women’s voices, is a routine practice. We were not going to take this silently. We were not ready to bow down and be policed, yet again, about what we could and could not do. Hence, we gave a call for a public event on 26th Sept, where we invited students of the university to join us in making colourful posters with feminist and queer messages that we would then go on to paste across the Wall of Democracy in Delhi University North Campus.
We were overwhelmed and exhilarated by what happened that day. We gathered in front of Arts Faculty from morning till dusk: sharing tales, painting, singing, drumming, dancing, coming together. It was an incredible sense of collective power to look at what transpired from those hours of labour and creativity: more than 150 posters with delightful and exciting feminist and queer messages, messages of struggle, of hope, of dreams. Around 3.30pm, we went around pasting these hand-made posters along with the printed ones announcing our Jan Sunwai across Delhi University. Just about half an hour later, a student comes rushing to where a few of us were sitting in front of Arts Faculty, with the torn remains of our posters, which she saw a man tear down vehemently from the Wall of Democracy opposite the DUSU office. He ran away immediately.
As we looked at our torn posters, we were seething with rage. Hours of our sweat, blood and hard work had been destroyed in a matter of minutes. This reflects on the nature of student politics on this campus, where posters about women’s autonomy and struggle are to have absolutely no space. We do not know who exactly did this, but due to what had happened a few days earlier, we had reason to suspect who it maybe. We decided to head out to the DUSU office nearby to demand from the newly elected Union that they discuss this matter with us. We went and sat outside the DUSU office and called up the DUSU President, who instead of engaging with our concerns, told us that “It is your right to put up posters on the Wall of Democracy, but what happens to it, even a minute later, is not my responsibility.” All this while, the police kept giving us deadlines (as if we were not already tired of them) and warnings about how we were not allowed to be gathered around the DUSU office like this and should disperse. We did put up a few of our torn printed posters about the Jan Sunwai on the DUSU notice board, along with a few hand-made ones. The DUSU President claimed that the Union has no accountability regarding what happens to the Wall of Democracy, but at least it has control over what happens to its own notice board. When we checked today, those posters had all been removed from their notice board. This shows where the Union stands with regard to supporting the concerns of its women students.
Why were our posters repeatedly taken down? Who is feeling threatened? The tearing down of posters itself resonates with an overall resistance to a movement like Pinjra Tod due to it’s very nature that is targeting the root of the problem: patriarchy, hence disturbing the normalised dominant discourse. The discomfort that’s being expressed by those threatened to lose control over women is itself a marker of why the struggle is important. The tearing down of the posters was immensely disappointing and painful to see, but at the end of the day, we felt our point had been made. While we gathered together in a loud, assertive and public manner to challenge these aggressively masculine forces that seek to silence us, these forces were not even able to confront us directly, but resorted to cowardly methods of tearing our posters when we are not around in a desperate bid to reassert their patriarchal power.
The struggle is on. We hope we will see you gather in huge numbers at the Jan Sunwai at Jantar Mantar on 10th October 2015.
Take campus conversations to the next level. Become a YKA Campus Correspondent today! Sign up here.
You can also subscribe to the Campus Watch Newsletter, here.