By Towfeeq Wani:
On October 7, the provost of the new Hall of Residence (Girls) in Jamia Millia Islamia served show cause notices to about sixty residents. The notices demanded an explanation on what the students have described as “silly and absurd” charges which could result in expulsion from the hostels and denial of any accommodation on campus.
Interestingly, this came not even two weeks after the residents of the same Hall opposed the notice that made it compulsory for all the residents to be present at the inauguration ceremony of the new hostel presided over by the Union Minister of HRD. The notice was later changed by the administration and students were ‘invited’ to the event, rather than being forced to be present. At a time when women across the nation are fighting against the discriminatory and sexist hostel policies under the slogan of #pinjratod, this incident drew a lot of flak from all corners of the student community. Many students also wrote a letter to the Dean of Students’ Welfare for revocation of these notices following which “all show-cause notices issued till date” were cancelled as per a notice issued on October 15 by the new officiating provost of the Hall.
This incident serves as an interesting case in point to understand how hostels for women are functioning. The charges in the notices included “misconduct and rude behaviour, non-participation in hostel activities, taking leave for more than fifty days in a year, and being dressed indecently.” In standard cases, residents are initially given warnings, and failure to adhere to it results in show-cause notices being served. But students have alleged that no warnings were given this time.
Although it is not the first time that the residents of women’s hostels of Jamia Millia have been served show-cause notices due to unreasonable and illogical reasons, the numbers have never been this huge. As one student comically put it on Facebook. “The quality of show cause notices has always been like this, but in such a quantity we have never seen before.”
A number of students that Campus Watch spoke to believe that this whole incident was foreseeable. “For many weeks now we knew this was coming. First, we angered the administration at the time of the hostel inauguration. Then there was a salad-making competition in the hostel which saw a few participants,” an undergraduate student said.
“I have a lot of course work which keeps me too busy to focus on anything else, let alone a salad-making competition.” a postgraduate student from AJK MCRC quipped. “We have been paying five hundred rupees for a gymnasium, but there is no gymnasium in the new hostel at all. When we asked the warden about the same, she said we could certainly spare some amount for charity. These small incidents have formed the backdrop of this incident and serving show cause notices is the culmination of the same,” she added.
It is important to understand that it is the choice of the students to decide whether they want to participate in any event or not and authorities can’t coerce them into attending something they don’t wish to. Residents have also alleged discrimination time and again regarding the ‘fifty days leave’ rule, where a resident can only take fifty leaves. They say that it is discriminatory, and is never applied to the male residents of the institution. As for the case of ‘indecent clothing’, it goes without saying that it is sexist in nature.
“I wonder why we can’t serve show cause notices to the hostel administration and demand an explanation for the lack of the gymnasium facility, disabled water dispensers, pending rebate money, water seepage in the dorm rooms, and above all, the sexist and discriminatory hostel policies,” said another postgraduate student, noticeably enraged.
While “all show-cause notices issued till date” were cancelled as per a notice issued on October 15, 2016, by the new officiating provost of the Hall, this also meant that the previous provost, whose signature was on all the show-cause notices, no longer held the office of the same.
In a written message, members of #pinjratod described the withdrawal of these notices as “a big victory”, but termed the change of the provost as a futile exercise and instead called for the implementation of the UGC circular which would “demarcate the exact powers of hostel authorities through a democratic process of consultation with all women students of the hostel,” as elaborated in the clause 3.2.16 of the circular.