By Pragya Pasricha:
This year, many students from across the nation have raised their voice against sexist rules in college campuses. This includes students of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU), Delhi and Punjabi University, Patiala- both of which are considered quite apolitical. Student from both the universities have recently held demonstrations to protest against discriminatory accommodation rules; curfews, and moral policing that females students are subjected to on a day to day basis.
Around 150 students, including male students of GGSIPU’s University School of Law and Legal Studies, protested outside their hostel gates on October 25 demanding the removal of curfew timings for women hostellers. A student of the college told Campus Watch that the college keeps tabs on their movements. She explained, “The rules that we have in our ‘general code of conduct’ – rulebook, also available on the University’s site is the main problem. They have mentioned 8 pm for girls during winters and 9 pm during summers. Whereas, the timing is 11 pm for other residents. There’s an ‘attendance’ and a ‘leave book’ in which we are asked to make an entry every time we leave the hostel.”
According to the students, when making an entry in the register, women hostellers have no provision to go anywhere but to the place of their parents or that of their local guardians. Pinjra Tod’s Facebook page says, “Women students are unable to access the library (which is open until 9 pm) and sports facilities which are open all night. The curfew for men is 11 pm (which only exists on paper and is not implemented at all)… Only the mother and the sister of the student is allowed in the visitor’s room; no other friend or family, whether male or female is allowed.” Another student told us, “The limited number of nights we can be out for ’emergency leave’ is four in a year, even for this there has a to be a written application and you have to wait for it to be approved.” Women students have also complained about the overprotective nature of the authorities. A second-year student expressed her angst and said, “Warden tries to become our mom. Even a five minute late entry and she will make a call to our parents and give moral lectures. There is no provision for night outs. Either you enter the hostel before 8 pm or you take an advance leave and come next day.”
A meeting was conducted in this regard wherein the Vice-Chancellor, the newly appointed warden and nine PhD scholars and master’s students were present. Although the administration had assured the students they would look into the matter, according to our sources, at the end of the meeting, they said, “If you ask our opinion, we do not believe that girls are safe in Dwarka. Beta pata hai na Dwarka kitna isolated hai… zamana kharab hai… tumhare parents bhi toh yahi chahenge (Child, you know how isolated Dwarka is… the times are bad… your parents would want the same thing).” This shows that the administration only assured the students to avoid controversy and didn’t understand the problem.
The administration had assured students that they would take some action by November 5. The students had decided to wait until then before organising more such protests in case their demands were not met. However, no action was taken and students couldn’t follow up either. A student of the college told us on November 8, “The present scenario is that students are stuck with exams, assignments and practicals and no one is willing to do anything.” As of now, the movement is at a standstill at the University. The wardens at GGSIPU were unavailable for comment.
Women students of Punjabi University held a protest on the night of November 10, led by Democratic Students Organisation (DSO), against the discriminatory curfew imposed on women’s hostels. There is a lot of pressure on the women protesters from their families and the administration to back down and yet they are determined to smash patriarchy. According to Pinjra Tod’s Facebook page, there is severe moral policing, surveillance on women and a tedious process of getting permissions from their local guardians and parents for leaves. There have been various public meetings regarding the same and a street play called “Jail Manual” has also been performed at different spaces in the campus. A charter of demands to remove sexist rules signed by 2000 students was submitted to the Vice-Chancellor of the university.
Another student, expressing her angst, said, “We need to study at night sitting in the library. Some girls’ classes get over at 5 pm or 6:30 pm. Isn’t the library for us too?” On the night of November 9, a call to occupy the Vice-Chancellor’s office led to a huge march on campus with the participation of around 200 women students who even broke their curfews despite strict warnings given by hostel wardens. The university administration allegedly called up there and said things like “aapki beti faraar hai (your daughter has absconded).” Moreover, some male students used misogynistic slangs to disrupt the rally.
However, the administration has taken some action. One of the students informed us, “The women’s hostel deadline has been extended to 7:30 pm for winters, and 8:30 pm for summers, which was earlier 6 pm. Internal gates of hostels which were also locked after 6 pm will be open for 24 hours. Our ultimate demand is 24×7 freedom to do what we want to but this is an important start.” Even though there has just been an extension and not removal of these curfews and it’s evident that the administration is taking these actions only to avoid a scandal, this incident goes to show the power of student unity. We tried multiple times to get a response from the both the administration of the University and the wardens of the hostels, but they were unavailable for comment. The story will be updated if and when they respond.
It is overwhelming to witness such unity and enthusiasm especially since these universities have no record of being involved in any political movement in the past. Denial of basic rights in the name of protection is unjust and it is great to see how students have now taken it upon themselves to break these patriarchal chains.
The piece was updated for consistency.