In the last few years, many universities and colleges in India made it to national news and prime-time debates for how nationalist or anti-nationalist they were. In close connection to this, colleges were also in the news for the student protests against bizarre hostel rules.
For students living far away from their homes, they have no alternative but to conform to draconian hostel rules. Under the guise of maintaining discipline in the hostel premises, students are made to bow down against moral policing. So, what are these rules? Here are multiple examples.
Female students are not allowed to leave the hostel premises after 8 pm. This rule has to be strictly adhered to and no exception would be made even if the residents want to use the University Library or go to attend a function within the university campus. The reason cited for this rule is that the girls would be unsafe at night – even within the university campus!
Since there is no WiFi or LAN facility for female hostellers, women either have to use their mobile data or go outside the hostel campus to some internet café—but make sure you return back by 8 PM.
In contrast, the boys have their curfew at 10 pm, and that too only on paper. Some students even reveal that they are advised to book tickets on trains/ buses that do not leave between 8 PM and 6 AM.
No Phone calls after 10 PM! If you are found speaking on the phone post 10 PM, you are either asked to put your phones on speaker or your parents are informed about your ‘misdoings’.
No Protests! At the time of joining the hostel, you are asked to sign an undertaking whereby you agree to not indulge in any kinds of protest, or dharnas. This is in clear violation of one’s Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution.’ Article 19(1)(a) confers freedom of speech to the citizens of this country and, thus, this provision ensures that the citizens could raise slogan, albeit in a peaceful and orderly manner, without using offensive language. Article 19(1)(b) confers the right to assemble and, thus, guarantees that all citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms.’
And finally, non-veg food is served only in boys hostels. A petition filed in the Supreme Court in 2017 against the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya Hostel rules contained the following grievances (and it included the existing menus of the girls, as well as boys hostel).
AMU made it into the news in 2016 when on October 15, the provost of one of the Girls Hostels, Farukh Arjmand, locked the girls inside the hostel after they demanded to go out after curfew. What’s shameful is that these girls only wanted to go out for the on-going AMU Alumni Meet, for which they had permission from the required authorities! Speaking about Farukh Arjmand, a then first-year student of Masters in English literature said to The Wire, “Even when the girls came in five minutes after curfew, she has said things about a sex racket.”
Here are some more hostel rules (in effect at least till 2016) that will fill you with exasperation.
The curfew timing is 6:30 PM. No such rules exist for boys.
You are allowed only one leave per week, that too, only on Sundays. If you wish to leave the hostel on any other day apart from Sunday, you will have to get a permission slip from the Warden one day in advance, for which your parents have to send a fax to the hostel authorities. Think about it, a fax for a leave!
Oh, and you can fall ill only during the non-curfew hours. If you, for any reason, fall sick during the curfew hours, you’ll only be given the medicines available in the hostel. Once a girl complained of being given Cetirizine, an anti-allergy drug, for fever.
“We cannot wear shorts in corridors and have to cover our heads with a dupatta at dinner because there are bhaiyyas serving us,” said a resident of AMU Girls hostel to Hindustan Times.
Jamia came into news for the courage and unity shown by the women hostellers earlier this year when they fought against the University authorities to lift the curfew timing from 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM. This, they claimed, was their right because the boys could stay outside all night if they want to, although the on-paper timing was 10:00 PM for them.
Going back on its word only months after this historic protest, the Jamia authorities released the new guidelines whereby they brought back the curfew timings to 9:00 pm. Adding insult to injury is the clause that forbids the residents from taking part in any kinds of protest or even signature campaign.
“If some students don’t want any restrictions, they are free to seek accommodation elsewhere”, is what the spokesperson of the University said to Indian Express.
Huffington Post further reports that “Compared to the 11-point hostel discipline manual for women issued for 2018-19, the boy’s hostel has one which has been in effect since 2017. The deadline for the boy’s hostel is 10 PM. Unlike the girl’s hostel, which states women won’t be allowed inside after 9 PM, the boy’s hostel rules say that if a man is returning later than the deadline he has to simply put down the time of arrival in the hostel register and explain the reason for coming late. He does not have to inform the authorities beforehand about returning late.”
The misogyny of the hostel authorities is clearly visible. Also, if you indulge in any protest, your admission to the hostel would be canceled with immediate effect. All of this is done in the name of moral policing. The Reading Hall in the University Campus is open late at night till 2:00 AM, but the girls cannot leave the hostel after 9:00 PM, meaning thereby that an invisible board hangs on the main gate of the Hall: GIRLS NOT ALLOWED AFTER 9.
Be it BHU, AMU, or JMI, what the university authorities fail to realise is that the residents of hostels are legally adults (or will be in a matter of months). The word “adult” comes with a sense of responsibility, which these residents are very well aware of. In most cases, what the protestors ask for is a right to roam only within the University premises, which is the least that could be provided by the administration. If you cannot provide security to your own students, within your own campus, what good does your Proctoral and the Security Department serve? What these students can further expect from an educational institution that has a Faculty of Law within its premises is the fundamental right to expression which is guaranteed to them in the Constitution. But no, the college authorities hold a greater value than the Constitution.
The administration has two points of leverage. One, it knows that the students cannot afford to live anywhere else because majority of the students in these universities come either from the middle- or lower-income groups. Therefore, they will conform to whatever inane, irrational, and illogical norms we force upon them. Second is the parents’ concern about the security of their wards. These are used against the students, leaving them in a no-win situation because in most cases they can’t complain either to their parents or to the authorities. ‘Sanskaar’ is what you lack if you want to go out of the hostel at night. More so if you’re a girl.
The situation in the private institutions is even worse and we all know it for a fact.
These norms expose the patriarchy and the misogyny that is still eating up our society from inside, but we all know this has to be gotten rid of one day. Various student organizations are continuously working against this dictatorship, and in other cases, as with BHU, the matter is with the Supreme Court. What we have to wait and watch for is whether there is light at the end of the tunnel, or if your graduation ends before the tunnel does!