On July 31, over the course of the day, three women students were allegedly harassed near the hostels of TISS, Hyderabad. The primary issue with the Hyderabad campus is the fact that there is no campus. The university currently functions from a rented building in TSIPARD (Telangana Institute of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development) in the Rajendranagar area of Hyderabad.
Thus, there are no institutional hostels. The hostels are leased out to private contractors, who in turn lease residential buildings and convert the apartments into hostel rooms. The public road that leads to the hostel is congested because of traffic.
After the filing of the FIR on Tuesday and intense debates, TISS students gathered on Thursday and protested against the authorities. Majority of the students came together and demanded action against the perpetrators.
“Whenever the question of women’s safety has been put up, the infrastructural limitations have been used as a constant explanation. The large turnout in the protest comes with frustration that emanates from the sidelining of women’s safety as just another issue. It is high time students own up their responsibility of making spaces safer, one tiny space at a time. At the same time, I’d also point at how even the students within TISS must constantly question their own theory and praxis, how physical violation or curtailing physical mobility of non-male members of the student community is unacceptable. It is also about all those little instances when a space or opinion or intellectual/psychological freedom and rights are curbed without even knowing the harm it induces,” says Pallavi Pratibha, a masters student in the college.
Another document highlighting the issue was shared across the campus as an open statement. The open statement described how a man on a Royal Enfield groped the girl and sped away. The post also highlights other instances of a man on a Royal Enfield sexually harassing women.
The women students at TISS live in fear, especially when they venture out of the hostels.
“The number of sexual harassment incidents, in and around our hostels are just too many. Every day we get to hear of at least three sexual harassment incidents. It’s extremely frustrating, and the students are scared for their lives. The protests happened because of this frustration. We are just asking for our basic right to safety. It is exhausting that every time we have to go somewhere, we have to constantly be on guard. The institute has to take this issue seriously,” said Visakha Dutta, another masters student.
The authorities including the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) along with the administration have been extremely proactive during the protests. They are working alongside the local police to ensure that such cases don’t happen again. However, why are preventive measures being used? Why can’t there be a permanent solution for such a grave situation?
“We are social scientists. We are taught principles of equality and liberty. Every day, we try to come up with issues pertaining to gender inequality. However, what’s the point of all of it when I cannot step out without fear,” says Maleeha Fatima, a Bachelor’s students in the college.
The issue is much bigger than a street in Hyderabad, it is a global issue that can only be solved through systematic institutional changes and education. Until then, the fight continues for women’s safety in public spaces.