At four in the evening, a few people had assembled at the Faculty of Arts (Arts Fac.), North Campus on 8th October 2018. The scene was marked with several self-made posters displaying messages like ‘LSD- Lockup, Safety, Dhoka’ and ‘Tod do taale’ (break the locks). This was the setting for Pinjra Tod’s all-night protest against curfew in girl’s hostel and many other issues such privatisation of education, accessibility, and equitable education. Members of this organisation have always been on the forefront for being the voice against the regressive curfew timings of the hostels in the University of Delhi (DU).
After a string of speeches explaining their agenda, the protestors went on to charge towards gate no. four of the University Enclave which lay ahead. Their main appeal was to have a demonstration outside the Vice Chancellor’s office. The VC along with the administration has mostly turned a deaf ear or made themselves unavailable to the hostel issues, as many members of Pinjra Tod pointed out. The protesters attacked the gate with hard fury but the guards were ready for the resistance. The demonstration outside this gate went for hours with girls even climbing over the sharp edges of the gate. They raised slogans like ‘Tod, tod, pinjra tod!’ and ‘Curfew todo ya, kursi chodo’. Proctor Neeta Sehgal tried to reassure the protestors but her pleas to end the agitation were left unheard.
Exasperated by the monotony, being denied entry to the VC lawns, and charged with an incentive to make the cause known to others, they now marched on the road, yelling the slogans with full might outside Miranda House hostel and setting the stage for the finale at Vishwavidyalya Metro Station. What followed at the crossing of the Chatra Marg and G.T. Karnal Road was the formation of a huge human chain. They sang songs of protest, stopped cars, and tried explaining the passers-by their cause. When asked about this disruption by several agitated commuters on the road, a few protesters explained how this radical action is necessary and their voice needs to be heard by everyone as a silent sitting protest at Arts Fac does not raise anyone’s brows anymore (especially the Vice Chancellor’s). The police was also handling the situation calmly at the start. However, the situation turned ugly a few minutes later when some of the students were manhandled and pushed away from the traffic which they had brought to a halt. “In my 10 years of service I have never seen a bunch of women block the road for over three hours,” said a police constable on duty.
The banter and the chanting went on till 10 p.m. when the protesters marched back to gate number four. The gates never opened but Pinjra Tod stayed at the spot. Representatives from the Delhi University Teachers’ Association also extended solidarity to the cause. Through their earlier initiatives, Pinjra Tod managed to secure a legal recognition for their cause from the Delhi Council for Women. “Pinjra Tod’s fight is not over yet. It’s to be seen how the administration would respond to this protest. Probably it would it keep their lips sealed, prompting us to shout out the demands through an even grander display resistance,” said a protester, as she hurriedly walked towards the metro station, having missed her PG curfew of 10 p.m.
Feature Image Credit: Mahi Panchal for DU Beat