I sit with an empty stomach as I write this in the ‘comfort’ of my hostel room. My stomach is empty because my mess is a mess and we do not have a night mess. You must be wondering that there are a lot of dhabas near Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) and I could order food from there if I was that hungry? Well, I cannot. Forgive me for the typo – only girls cannot. My hostel room is ‘comforting’ because it is ‘unsafe’ for me to step outside, in my very own campus.
I stare at the placements records, internship records and the moot court competitions that my Vice Chancellor boasts of. He boasts of all things academic like a Vice Chancellor should. He boasts of lawns and gymnasiums – indoor and outdoor. He boasts of us being a national law university and the facilities we shell out thousands for.
But you all know about the bright reputation of HNLU. I will not talk about that. I’m here to tell you what he shouldn’t be proud of.
He shouldn’t be proud of imposing a curfew timing of 10:30 pm and expecting only women – I repeat, only women – being made to follow the same. He shouldn’t be proud of having a gatekeeper who leaves no stone unturned to harass girls who are late, even by 5 minutes, to enter the girls’ hostel. He shouldn’t be proud of refusing our demand to access our gymnasium, library and IT lab after 10:30 pm and citing reasons like, “Parents permission denge to sab khol denge.” (We’ll open all the gates if parents give permission.)
He shouldn’t be proud of spreading the wrong message that women should be caged, that ‘bad things’ happen to women at night if they step out of their hostel rooms. He shouldn’t be proud of having wardens who have time and again morally policed girls who might have been late by a few minutes and the students standing up for the abolition of such a regressive rule.
To add to that, they have locked our terrace and common balconies, blaming ‘suicidal tendencies’ for the same. It has been two long years since this ridiculous rule was imposed which has no basis or precedent whatsoever. So once the gates of my hostel close, I’m pretty much confined to this tiny room of mine, come what may.
When I entered the world of law school in my first year, it was heartening for me to look at the sex ratio of my university. We had a great number of girls compared to other colleges and this fact itself was very empowering to me.
A few more semesters into my law school, I have realised this empowerment is a sham. It is a sham because my male counterparts have endless parties after 10:30 pm, their infamous dhaba gate goes unmonitored and they boast about having entered their rooms as late as 1 am, no questions asked. They can gather wherever they want, whenever they want.
They do not know the feeling of going to bed on an empty stomach. No gatekeeper says a word. No phone calls are made to their homes, saying their boy comes late to his room and is engaged in unscrupulous activities. They aren’t bound to sign the attendance register kept in the mess and there are no threats given for the same.
But for us, everything’s different. The security guard whistles at 10:20 pm sharp, and by 10:30, everyone rushes back, running with heartbeats as fast as after a cardio session.
I am asking you to introspect. I am asking you to please take note of the fact that my campus belongs to me. Even after 10:30 pm. I am saying I am aware of how you always get to have your way and do what you want, dear administration.
I know how you’ll say that you will ask our parents for their permission. I am telling you I do not need their permission. I am an adult and this is my right, not theirs. I am expecting you to grow up HNLU because you have been curtailing my fundamental rights and have literally imprisoned me in the name of safety for a long time now.
Let me briefly talk about why it becomes unsafe for women to roam inside their own campus, amongst their own batchmates and faculty members.
Here are the reasons given by our faculty members for having curfew timings:
1. “Uperwara safe area nahi hai.” (Uperwara is not a safe area.)
With all due respect, we are asking them to only allow us to be inside our own campus – researching, hanging out, group studying or just sitting outside our rooms whenever we want to. Uperwara is not my campus. HNLU is my campus.
2. “Parents manenge to hi in-timing hategi.” (We’ll only remove in-timings if parents agree.)
We, as adults studying at a law university, do not have to take the permission of our parents for a thing as simple as staying outside of our hostel rooms, inside our campus, which we call our second home. By exaggerating the incidents which happen inside the hostels and not just outside them, we don’t want parents to be misguided and end up compromising with our demands.
3. “Bahar der raat ghatiya cheezein hoti hain.” (At late hours, disgusting events take place.)
With all due respect, dictators, do you really think timings matter to people who want to fight or who want to smoke or drink, if that is what you think would happen if we stay out till late? On the other hand, freedom from in-timings would actually mean a lot to a person who has been working on a moot or a paper or a debate with a team member who is not in the same hostel as the other one.
Reasons, why the abolition of in-timings is not an illegitimate demand to be made at a residential university like ours, is because the campus is perfectly well-lit and guarded 24×7. Besides, in a rigorous curriculum like ours, further burdened with academic and extracurricular endeavours, nights aren’t as short as the administration might imagine them to be.
Most of us would kill for a brief walk when our brain has hit a dead-end, or an emergency discussion when our moot problem has hit a dead-end, or when the world has been exhausting, and the mess food has been terrible, and some sev tamatar is what the heart wants in the middle of a long night.
And it doesn’t end here. After almost every party at HNLU, only ‘female’ students are shoved inside, while the DJ continues to entertain the privileged gender. This thinking takes us back to when education was believed to promote wickedness and cunningness in women. Similarly, caging women for their own safety is logic at its worst.
We need to understand that when we have more women on the streets, that is how you guarantee women their freedom, their empowerment, and also their safety. We as a society have always discouraged our women and told them to not step outside after a certain timing (the curfew timing). But as and when that stops, the whole problem of women safety shall be solved, and effectively so. For the more women there are on the streets, the lesser the chances of them being singled out for all things unpleasant.
We as students have gone through all official channels to get our voices heard.
1. There were a bunch of students who complained about to the Registrar regarding the discriminatory in-timings, only to have a mockery made out of the issue.
2. When we later tried to present to them an application with signatures of students from every batch, they denied our request to even consider the issue as something significant. Things like, “Ye aap sab ke samjhne ki bat nahin hai,” (This is not a matter for all of you to understand) and “Parents bolenge to hata denge, hum thode hi dushman hain apke,” (We’ll remove it if parents tell us, we are hardly your enemies) were told to us.
3. Recently, a letter against restrictive in-timings, signed by 300 students, was emailed to our dear Registrar sir. There has been no response to the same.
What is remarkable is the fact that our university is well aware of the fact that guys stay out after their in-timings – both in the campus and outside – but nothing is done to them. Yes, you heard it right – nothing, no questions asked. But when a female student does not sign the register, she is asked for fines which range from ₹500-2000.
Furthermore, enter a minute after 10:30 and you shall be morally policed. Your parents are informed about your ‘disorderly conduct’ and how their daughter has been trying to roam outside after it had become unsafe.
So basically, till 10:30 pm, there are no molestations. A minute past that, they let loose rapists and molesters. NUJS Kolkata, BITS Pilani, the IIMs – these are just a handful of examples of premier colleges which allow their women to be free, so why can’t we?
I think this was enough reality check for today. Please don’t disappoint me, HNLU, with your ways of handling power. I have seen all of it and I have fought them back with more strength. I know your ways. What I don’t for a fact is whether you are reasonable. Please be reasonable for once. Please introspect on how you’ve dealt with women. Don’t try to scare us away, we will not be intimidated.
Give us what we deserve: our campus. Don’t dilute our demand by telling us we go to the city a lot. Because you know what? It is a necessity. With no stationary shops, grocery shops, medical shops and food options, where else do you think we should go? We don’t even a proper hospital in our campus, forget grocery. And you’re right, once we return from the city, there’s no time for us to be productive because of your curfew timings.
I hope you understand the gravity of our stance and open your eyes to the state of things for once. We pay you in thousands and lakhs for our resources and you refuse to bow down thinking we’re unreasonable. Time to introspect, HNLU.
And fool us not by trying to mask the independence of the student community by restricting the in-timings of guys for a few days because we know what we want and it is definitely not more restrictions; or similar restrictions on the other half of the population in a place we call home.