“We have nothing to lose but the price!”
The events triggered by LSR’s anonymous students’ group Think Beyond Rules (TBR) on 2nd March have unfolded rapidly, creating a whirl of unprecedented developments. As DU Beat had reported in its last few issues, emails and pamphlets circulated by members and supporters of this group challenged the logic behind high prices in the college canteen. Their demand for lower prices was substantiated by a comparative survey of college canteens, which successfully exposed the exclusivist nature of the LSR “café”.
However, justifying their stand on account of TBR’s anonymity, the college establishment refused to acknowledge the facts provided in the survey. In lieu of the fact that the college authorities had not taken any measures to address the issue of the cafe prices, the anonymous group decided to organize a Dharna in the college premises, in protest of the prices that they termed as unreasonably expensive.
Held on 3rd March, the Dharna saw the coming together of over 250 young women to sloganeer and march through the canteen, corridors, and the rest of college. Several teachers also joined in the demonstration. Slogans ranged from “LSR hosh mein aao” to “Financial atyachaar” and “low cost at any cost”. Besides this, students and teachers also put down their signatures against a short write up demanding that the college immediately resolve the café problem by “making the current contractor reduce his prices” or by bringing in “an additional food stall which is a healthier and cheaper alternative to the café”. If the current contractor refused to agree to either of these options, the petitioners demanded that the “café be handed over to other caterers”.
In a postscript to the Dharna, TBR wrote,
“…we must all be proud of ourselves for having the courage to do what we did. We were never violent. Never. And that must remain unchanged. We were loud and courageous and why not? Yes, courage comes from numbers. Which is why, so many people, who have never spoken before — in classrooms or publicly, who are rarely seen in spaces near the cafe — were there, shouting, sloganeering. This was the greatest triumph of the Dharna-march! We reclaimed the college. Hamara Cafe! Hamara College.”
Breaking out of the tradition of politeness and decorum, the students once again, challenged the establishment with slogans like “Himmat hai to bahar aao” on the fourth of March. The protest was both decentralized and spontaneous with participants often breaking into their catchphrase “TBR kaun hai? Hum sab! Hum sab!”
Finally, on 5th March, a jan sunvai was held with the Principal in the college auditorium. With multiple voices, this 2 ½ hour long public meeting opened up lots of democratic spaces. From the point of view of tangible results, it culminated in the entry of students into the official café committee. This never before seen radical form of organized student protest has reduced the possibility of a further hike or sustenance of the present cafe prices in the next session.