“16 December wala scene yaad hain na tumko? Soch lo kya ho sakta hain tumhare saath (Remember what happened on December 16? Just think of what could happen to you),” said a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, to a female student of Ramjas, according to a Facebook post after the violent insurrection that took place in and around Ramjas College on February 21 and 22.
The violence that took place wasn’t just restricted to beating people or pelting stones, but it was also allegedly about harassing women with rape threats. Many women complained of getting groped during the havoc. According to Article 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code, women cannot be arrested after sunset, without permission of the Judicial Magistrate of the first class within whose local jurisdiction the offence is committed or the arrest is to be made. Yet, female students were thrashed and forced into police vans; brutally beaten up and humiliated.
What is even more shameful is that all of this went down in the presence of female cops. According to a report by the Quint, male policemen also took the opportunity to rough up female students. What happened at Ramjas proves that when it comes to protesting and standing up for one’s rights, all efforts are made to silence women in particular. “Apart from the physical assault, what was traumatising was the way ABVP threatened us with rape and harassment. It was blatant mental harassment. It was a nightmare,” said a student of Ramjas college.
Yet, women have proved again that they are stronger than any such threats. Students, female students in particular, from all over the country, took part in a profile picture campaign, started by Gurmehar Kaur, a student of Lady Shri Ram College. Those who were part of the campaign, changed their profile pictures on social media platforms to one in which they were holding a placard that read – “I am a student… I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me. #StudentsagainstABVP”
While the campaign has been well received by most, since it resonates with how frustrated students are with the cases of rampant hooliganism in universities all across India, it’s horrific that Gurmehar has received rape threats and has been immensely bullied and trolled on various social media platforms for being vocal about her opinion. Moreover, some famous personalities like Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda have mocked her on Twitter.
Undeterred, Gurmehar wrote on Facebook, “Why shouldn’t I stand for my friends? Why shouldn’t I stand for my university’s peace? Why should I not stand for these 18-year old and 17-year olds who got beaten to pulp in the name of nationalism?” Despite the extreme hate and media scrutiny that she was subjected to, Gurmehar faced it all courageously. Even though she has withdrawn from the campaign, the way she braved the situation and all the social media bullies, shows her passion for the cause.
Any threat to a person’s security can be mentally and emotionally distressing. The plight of the women students who participated actively in the fight for the student community at large is a testimony to how deep-rooted patriarchy is in our country. Gurmehar’s case is only one such case in point. The objective of this article is not to divert attention from the cause of freedom of speech and freedom of academic spaces that the students of Delhi University having been fighting for. Rather, it is only to bring to attention the added psychological and emotional harassment which certain female students have been subjected to due to patriarchy.
It is a disgrace not only to our ‘nation’ but also to us as human beings, that women students had to face such threats. It is a disgrace to the whole society, that even today, men think that they have the power to silence women, either through social media bullying or by indirectly making fun of women who stand up for themselves. It is nothing short of horrific to know how casually male students have given rape threats in the past week during the Ramjas incident. Nonetheless, it has been heartening to see a large number of women come out and actively participate in all the protests which happened following the Ramjas incident. While some men out there still think that they can silence women with threats and molestation, they must know that women were never this weak and they shall never be!