By Javaid Alam:
At a time when protests are happening in Delhi about the attitude of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) towards its women hostel residents, I feel it is our duty to see what is going in other institutions of higher education. Fortunately for JMI, it is in Delhi and gets media attention immediately. Had it been in any other part of the country perhaps no one would have cared. Sexist rules in Indian universities are not uncommon, although they may vary in degree, the attitude is present in all of our higher education institutes.
Far away from JMI, in the south is Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. Forget about basic amenities, no news comes out of this University. Some people consider it to be their fiefdom, others think it is a religious institute. This elite class who think it to be their fiefdom are hell bent on bringing arbitrary rules from time to time to make the life of resident students difficult. The other class who think that it is a religious institute, more precisely a Muslim institute, are collaborators to this elite class in bringing such changes.
Jamia’s recent circular bars its women residents from nights out. Forget about nights out, women residents in Maulana Azad National Urdu University are not allowed to move out of the University after 6:30 in the evening. And in case if a woman resident wants to go out of the University past 6: 30 in the evening she has to take permission three days in advance. After the permission is sought, they have to sign at the three different places, one inside hostel, at the hostel gate and then at the main gate of the University. One can only imagine what happens when there is an emergency. After she leaves, a student is required to call the hostel warden to inform that she has reached the spot for which permission had been sought, and once she returns she has to call again. Some readers at this point may think – why is it so difficult to sign at three different places? We need to understand that this is a central university and not a prison.
University’s women residents are not allowed to go to the library after 6:00 PM, although it remains open till midnight – it is a male privilege. These students are also not allowed to go to the canteen or the indoor sports stadium.
For the past few days, students have been protesting and demanding a gender equality on campus with other demands pertaining to their welfare. However, a section of students who have their vested interests and have patronage from some of the faculty members have been protesting against any freedom for women residents. Most of the time, the logic behind forcing women students to stay indoor is their protection. But if protection means locking female students inside the hostel then we should be ashamed of our educational institutes. It is pertinent to mention here that on 12th of this month when students tore the registers that regulate the women’s freedom the administration reacted by withdrawing the security from the women hostel.
To counter the protests, the administration has started maligning and criminalizing students by registering complaints against them in local police station. When such tactics didn’t work, then a group of students was pitched against the protesting students. These students even intimidated and harassed few of the women students who have been taking part in the protest.
In the recent past although the stories have started to come out in public about gender discrimination, so far our university administration has not issued any statement that assures the women freedom on campus. To counter such regressive rules across the university, student communities across India should come in support and show solidarity to the protesting students who have been demanding the gender equal campus at Maulana Azad National Urdu University.
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