Recently, the Ambedkar-Ganguly Students House for Women shifted its curfew timings from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. Students dissented but refrained from protesting in the fear that their hostel seat would be taken away from them.
The hostel provides accommodation to postgraduate DU students with a majority of the seats reserved for the students of Delhi School of Economics (DSE) and ST and SC categories. The unilateral change in the curfew timings was brought about by the hostel warden, K. Ratnabali, without any consultations with the elected Students Welfare Association. This could be an act of violation of the regulations of the University Grants Commission that occupies the position of the law in the collegiate space. The regulations put forward by the UGC deny safety as an excuse to restrict mobilisation among female students. There were further rules proclaiming that “Students cannot interfere while authorities make or modify rules”, thus paralysing all participation of the students in the management committees.
Pinjra Tod, a students’ collective that focuses on the right to freedom and fights sexism in university spaces, said:
Such infantilisation of university students is unacceptable! When it was pointed out that this act is a violation of UGC guidelines, the authorities focused their energies to silence protests rather than addressing legitimate concerns of students. They deployed pressure tactics such as:
– Denial of University housing and using it as a threat to silence/discourage dissenting voices from surfacing.
– Denial of democratic participation in the process of drafting of hostel rules.
– Forcing students to ratify the rules stated in the handbook which have been surreptitiously altered to deny residents any participation in the rule-making process!
– Forcing students to sign affidavits and undertakings that amount to waiving off their right to protest as a precondition to securing a hostel seat.
The victimisation of dissenting voices among students and infringement of their democratic fundamental rights have always been contentious situations across university spaces because of which harassment, oppression, abuse, and even coercion often remains unreported.
Looking further into the issue, an emergency general body meeting was held by the Warden, where she explained that the rules were being misinterpreted. One could come in till 4 a.m. after the 9 p.m. curfew, which would be regarded as a late night.
A resident of the hostel stated, “We thought that our exit timing was shifted from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. Basically that is true that once you sign the attendance by 9 p.m., you cannot exit. But we did not have any idea about this late-night thing. So, she (warden) was like if you people had a problem or wanted clarification why didn’t you approach us. We were planning to do so but as people were not readmitted to the hostel yet, we couldn’t decide which will be the right time to approach her. As the rule book says, you cannot question authority. I really don’t know whether it was a consequence or we genuinely misinterpreted it.”
The residents are currently waiting for a written resolution to dissolve this ambiguity.
Feature Image Credits: University of Delhi