Students from different Universities of the capital gathered for a jan sunwai in Jantar Mantar on 10th October as a part of the Pinjra Tod campaign. The jan sunwai vocally presented the grievances and the demands of this expanding group of students protesting against the restrictive and biased hostel/PG rules. The event saw eminent academicians and feminists like Piyoli Swatija, Uma Chakravarti, Mary John and Janaki Abraham as the jury of the public hearing. A representative of the Delhi Commission of Women was also present to assess the demands of this campaign. The Jan sunwai started with a powerful poem by a student of Miranda House. It was followed by a song, composed and performed by two male students who have also joined this women’s movement.
Students from different hostels and PG’s presented their cases of moral policing, sexist and restrictive curfew timings and issues such as the number of late nights and the concept of local guardians. These included residents of hostels of St Stephens, Miranda House and Jamia Milia Islamia to name a few. In addition, residents of private hostels and PG’s such as Aparna Girls Hostel, Undergraduate Hostel for Girls and others also voiced their anger against the oppressive rules and regulations of their hostels as well as the conduct of their wardens.
The speakers left the crowd as well as the jury baffled with their stories. For instance, one of the student from Jamia Milia Islamia said, “Jamia Milia Islamia requires their foreign residents to seek permission from their respective embassies for a late night leave.” Numerous cases of moral policing and use of abusive language by wardens was also voiced by the students of Delhi University.
The discussion was followed by a powerful Protest Performance, called Khol do. This was followed by the comments of the jury, who found it surprising that the condition and the rights of women have not really changed over the time. Uma Chakravarti, revered feminist historian said, “The university treats hostels as the extension of fathers control”. Janaki Abraham also exposed, ” the paternalism of the new UGC guidelines “
It was also highlighted that the Pinjra Tod campaign is not looking for freedom in a Utopian world and that the models of free and egalitarian spaces are present not very far, in the residences of institutions like JNU. The Pinjra tod activits read out their charter of Demands and handed over a petition signed by over one thousand supporters to the representative of the Delhi Commission Of Women, Farheen Malik. The Charter of Demands along with the petition was accepted by Farheen Malik,who termed all the demands ” genuine”
The Jan sunwai commenced with both male and female supporters shouting slogans such as,
“Pitta sapta dhoka hai,
Dhaka Maro Moka hai ”
“Gulami se samjhota karna chhod
Pinjra Tod Pinjra Tod
Hostel ke darwazay khol
Pinjra Tod, Pinjra Tod “
The crowd dispersed after having danced to a Greek freedom song. The core members of the campaign thanked the supporters and also urged them to support the Pinjra Tod campaign in it’s future endeavours.
Photo by Uzma Rehman