Pinjra Tod is an autonomous student-run collective effort aiming to ensure a secure and non-gender discriminatory University for all women students. They claim to be battling the university which they believe reproduces patriarchal and casteist structures by constantly seeking to regulate and control women students’ lives, mobility and sexuality through a wide range of mechanisms. On 23rd September 2016, Pinjra Tod organized a ‘Night March’ in Vijay Nagar, North Campus which aimed on reclaiming their right on the streets which they are forbidden to visit beyond their oppressive hostel and PG curfews. Pinjra Tod’s mission stated, “this time we are out on the streets to sit on a vigil against sexual harassment and rent extortion in PG’s, to ask for hostels that should be built for us, for that room that is ours no matter what time we return, for the collective spirit that threatens this patriarchal university so much”.
The march took place through the many lanes of Delhi University’s North Campus on that night in a peaceful and organized manner, after which the group collectively gathered at the Vijay Nagar tea point to begin their night vigil. As they sat on the vigil, the Pinjra Tod members put up a play which represented their daily struggles as woman in the university which was lauded by all the viewers at the tea point. All was said to be going well, when Satender Awana (ex-DUSU President from ABVP) arrived at Vijay Nagar along with his companions and placed themselves amongst the peaceful night vigil by Pinjra Tod. Their arrival followed a range of smirking, laughing and derogatory remarks by ABVP towards the protestors, it was also noted that these men took videos of protestors on their mobile phones with lewd hand gestures in display of their male entitlement over the female protestors. At the end of the play, the men from ABVP started chanting slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai!’ along with other provocative gestures towards the women which included flashing a ‘hundred rupee note’ at a protestor. On being challenged, the man caught hold of the Pinjra Tod activist’s wrists and kept tightening his grip, while attempting to corner her with his friends. This episode created a commotion at the protest area, which eventually cleared out as the men from ABVP left the spot to the activists of Pinjra Tod. This incident created an uproar amongst the female students of Delhi University towards the discriminatory nature of ABVP’s treatment towards Pinjra Tod’s vigil. In retaliation, Pinjra Tod is organizing another protest demonstration against ABVP on 20th October in the Faculty of Arts.
We were in conversation with a Pinjra Tod member who was present that night, she shared with us how the chanting of ‘Hum Bharat ki Mata nahi banenge’ by Pinjra Tod in response to ABVP was in order to instigate a feeling within these men about how women want ‘azaadi’ from these patriarchal structures of conformity which prescribes an ‘ideal woman’. She elaborated upon how the usage of lewd words by the men was an attempt towards character assassination of female students of Delhi University, and questioned their claim to be ‘student parties’ if they cannot treat the students within this university with due respect. The character assassination of women staying out ‘at night’ was an indication towards how these women are of low moral code and therefore do not have a place in their ‘savarna’ politics which is a bend towards casteism in student politics within DU. She also spoke of how the night vigil brought together all the activists of Pinjra Tod into a sense of solidarity towards reclaiming the spaces within the university which they are entitled to be in, as students.
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