By Manira Chaudhary:
The night of December 16th this year, exactly three years since the night Jyoti Singh was brutally raped in a moving bus by 5 men in Delhi, a group of young men and women came out all guns blazing on the streets of Connaught Place, the heart of the capital, raising slogans and singing songs of freedom and equality.
These were the young campaigners of Pinjra Tod, which started this September, against the “unfair and oppressive college hostel curfew timings imposed on women.” Literally meaning ‘Break The Cage’, the campaign has managed to create a quite a stir and has found support from students across the country.
Their initiative named ‘Bus Teri Meri, Chal Saheli’ found support and resonance in cities like Pune, Allahabad, Kolkata, Patiala, Chandigarh, Bangalore and Darjeeling where many women came out in participation and travelled in public transport holding placards, raising slogans and addressing people about the campaign in public spaces.
“A street full of women is the idea that we are trying to bargain for. We are not asking for more CCTV cameras or police surveillance or more gates and walls, but a more fruitful engagement with safety… A kind of safety which does not compromise on the autonomy of women,” said Avipsha Das, an MPhil student from JNU.
The contention with women being viewed as people who need to be protected and hence ‘caged’ was evident in slogans being raised and as was further elucidated by Vikramaditya Sahai, who teaches at Ambedkar University and is a queer rights activist, “Fundamentally we are trying to challenge a patriarchal ideology that imagines women only in terms of violence. Here, there is an imagination of ‘resisting’ women which challenges the idea that women are vulnerable, that women can only be imagined in discourses of violation in security.”
Braving the cold December weather, this group of young men and women, roamed about the streets shouting slogans, singing songs and distributing pamphlets to curious onlookers. They boarded public buses and addressed the passengers about their struggle against oppressive rules and their efforts to make society a freer space for women.
The group believes that their struggle to break the hostel locks is subsumed within the larger struggle for equality. “We as women students enter educational institutions with an idea of equality and envisaging a university space which is equal for both men and women. Then why are there discriminatory and sexist rules within the university where they try to lock us up?” Das added.
“This is not simply restricted to middle-class women occupying public spaces but making the city space accessible, less vulnerable and more joyous to every single woman,” Sahai adds as Das nods in agreement saying, “And where women are considered as people who can take their own decisions.”
As the night progressed, so did this passionate group of people as they want about hopping from one bus to another. Along with the chill, a light sense of merriment was in the air as hours went by and the singing and sloganeering did not cease. They marched on, asserting their right on their city.
Watch the video made by Pinjra Tod campaigners compiling glimpses of the march and bus rides conducted in various cities: