By Pinjra Tod:
After the women residents of the Rajiv Gandhi Hostel for Girls (RGHG) in Delhi University sat outside their hostel gate last week to protest eviction orders for the summer break and lack of drinking water facilities, another hostel in the same complex erupted in protest on Saturday night, April 23, 2016.
Around 300 women residents of the Undergraduate Hostel for Girls (UGHG) sat outside the hostel in protest, breaking their hostel ‘curfew time’ (just like the RGHG women), in protest against the abysmal water facilities in the hostel. For the last one and half months, there has been no regular water supply in the hostel causing immense trouble and distress for the residents. When the Provost Rita Kakkar refused to meet the protesting residents, the women marched to her residence at Mall Road and refused to budge until the Provost agreed to a meeting.
The militant energy and determination of women protesters forced the Maurice Nagar SHO to summon the Delhi Government Water Minister Kapil Mishra when the Provost and Delhi University administration repeatedly refused to arrive at the venue. When dowry case accused DUSU President Satyender Awana from ABVP came to the protest, the women residents refused to engage with him and shooed him away even as he pleaded that he needed to be there because he is “their representative”. The Delhi State Water Minister reached the protest site at around 11.30 p.m. and assured the women students that he would take “personal responsibility” for ensuring that their water problems are solved by Monday (April 25) evening, and that he would also undertake an investigation of the Delhi University authorities for such ‘inhuman treatment’ of the residents, stressing that there has been no laxity in terms of water supply on the part of the Delhi Jal Board.
Under immense pressure by now, the Provost finally arrived around midnight. The women students who have often been threatened by her whenever they have raised their voices, hounded her with their questions and grievances, demanding accountability. The hostellers were sceptical of the ‘assurances’ given to them, especially since they have been hearing such things for one whole month. Hence, they got it in writing from the Water Minister, Provost and Deputy Proctor that their demands for regular water supply and clean/safe drinking water will be met by Monday and that no student who participated in the protest on that day would be targeted or denied the hostel seat next semester. The students also demanded the immediate resignation of the Provost. It was around 1.00 a.m. when the women finally decided to return to their hostel, which usually shuts its gates on them at 7.30 p.m.
It is important to mention here that UGHG is also the hostel which had seen a prolonged workers’ protest in the beginning of the year when 10 Dalit safai karamcharis from the hostel were thrown out without any notice.
The UGHG hostel rule book states that “disciplinary action” will be taken against students for raising concerns regarding scarcity of water. The UGHG administration has also repeatedly thwarted attempts by the students to unionise and ‘witch-hunted’ and expelled students who they identified as ‘ring-leaders’.
And yet, women residents have fought back with their collective power and rage.
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