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Is An Army Crackdown On Students Protesting Against Hostel Rules In Hyderabad Justified?

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By Arpita Jaya:

Upon hearing reports of demonstrations by faculty as well as students of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), a 10-member fact-finding team, comprising of teachers and students from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) visited MANUU to ascertain the facts. This news came amid a history of allegations by teachers and students of mismanagement, corruption and serious financial irregularities by the administration of the University.

MANUU protests 3
Image source: Akhil Kumar/Facebook

The team based their findings on an interaction with the students and teaching and non-teaching staff on October 14, 2015. Teachers and students spoke about misappropriation of funds, mismanagement and lack of provision of basic facilities such as clean drinking water and functioning toilets, irregularities in recruitment, termination of staff members voicing dissent, selective promotion of staff who are close aides of the Vice-Chancellor regardless of UGC guidelines; gender discrimination, regional discrimination and a shocking coercion of students into illegal acts. Women students and their teachers described shocking instances of public insults in the vein of moral policing directed by members of the administration towards women students, and an arbitrary set of hostel rules that clamp down on the freedom of women students by imposing time restrictions limiting students’ access to academic and social spaces.

On further examination, we realised that students and staff weren’t provided with proper amenities like basic sanitation. Voices of anyone in the University space protesting these violations was clamped down in an undemocratic and regressive manner. Democratic processes were subverted by rendering the University’s internal regulatory bodies dysfunctional and ruthless measures were taken, such as suspension of teachers such as Mr. Abdul Qayyum and others who have been vocal about the problems of the University.

This fact-finding was triggered by a chaotic situation last Saturday (Oct 10, 2015), when some people in powerful positions in the MANUU administration incited a section of students into physically and verbally attacking their teachers who were peacefully and democratically protesting against the unilateral decision of the university administration to invite the former Vice-Chancellor for inaugurating a new building in campus.

Image Source: Afeef Abdul Khader/Facebook
Image Source: Afeef Abdul Khader/Facebook

Once students realized that they had been used by the administration to attack faculty, they were very upset and they agitated against the administration for this kind of misuse. In the course of their agitation, the administration clamped down on the students and the Chief Warden/Proctor filed police complaints against them. In addition to the use of police force against protesting staff and students, the MANUU administration has also armed itself with illegal and draconian policy measures such as the circular no. MANUU/ER1-1(B)/F.110/2015-16/150 (dated 29th April 2015), which attacks the right of employees and students to go on strike. According to the protesters, the MANUU administration has all this while used all possible measures of co-option, intimidation, and coercion, to ensure minimum dissent against its ruthless policies and corrupt practices.

This includes unconstitutional diktats such as a ban on giving public statements about the University in any kind of media, illegal raids on the offices of faculty members in a bid to ‘frame them with false charges’, suspension of employees, physical attacks and other techniques such as public intimidation, humiliation and rumour- mongering against those who dare to raise their voices.

Image source: Sadik Ashraf/Facebook
Image source: Sadik Ashraf/Facebook

All this has happened in parallel with the students’ independent ongoing struggle against moral policing and effective curfew on women students on campus. The protesting students have been demanding a gender-equal and democratic campus, protesting repressive rules such as strict hours for women students to return to their hostels by arbitrary deadlines set by their wardens, sometimes as early as 6:30 pm. These measures effectively restrict their hours of access even to the library which is open till midnight, allowing male students several hours of access to libraries that women students are prevented from accessing. When these women students approached the teachers to tackle these issues, the same Chief Warden made extremely misogynist comments questioning their motivation, asking, “Are you here to entertain the professors?” This kind of intimidation and sexism by the Chief Warden has also been a regular issue for students, as she has grilled students who arrive past their curfew and morally policed them by making insinuations. Protesting students tore apart registers being maintained by the administration that were used to curtail freedom and mobility of women students. The effective curfew for women students was extended till 10 pm under pressure of the student protest. The presence of police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) on the University campus further served to create an unsafe and intimidating atmosphere for all students, including women students who felt harassed by the police. The police and RAF’s entry onto the campus, and the administration’s suppression of a peaceful, democratic teachers and students protests is untenable.

The media has also reported a completely skewed version of the events, including a false communal angle, featuring prominently the claims of Prof. Pradeep Kumar, who claimed that as a Hindu, he felt his family was ‘not safe’ on campus, where they currently stay. Prof Pradeep Kumar however, does not live on campus. This and many other distortions of the situation in MANUU, including the demonization of women and minority students and teachers are one of the many reasons that teachers and students from other Universities, civil society spaces and supportive media should visit the campus and observe the democratic nature of the protests for themselves.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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