Arts & Culture

Overcrowding and Harassment at Reverie’20, Gargi College

Reverie’20, the annual cultural fest of Gargi College wasn’t a good experience for students who attended the star night with Jubin Nautiyal. Numerous accounts of man-handling and abuse were reported.

Trigger Warning: This article contains accounts of sexual harassment and molestation.

Reverie, the annual cultural fest of Gargi College took place from 4th February to 6th February 2020. Despite having a strict entry procedure, it witnessed various incidents of molestation and harassment.

While the first two days were relatively peaceful, the third day turned out to be more horrendous. Girls were groped, abused, and ogled at during Jubin Nautiyal’s concert on 6th February. It became impossible to even move out for safety in the huge crowd that had gathered. Gargi College, as it is known for its ethics and morals, ironically became the center of physical and verbal assault of many women.

While the entry for boys was strictly through passes and supposed to close after 4:30 pm, the gates remained open till late, and there was no checking for identification either. The security system proved to be highly incompetent as middle aged men jumped over boundaries to enter the campus. Due to overcrowding, there was no checking for passes or IDs at the gates. An anonymous source reports that the men did not break the gates initially. An admin official had consciously opened the gates to let a car enter. Once the gates were opened, a pool of men, including many non college students, flooded in. The influx continued till late. Approximately more than 5,000 individuals had accumulated on the Campus. They sat on the stalls of vendors and actively damaged the property of the college.

One of the students shared, “They broke down the gate, climbed over the walls and rammed their scooties into the crowd. The men were walking around drunk and shirtless.” Another girl said, “It was my first ever fest and I was touched inappropriately multiple times. A man just unzipped himself and kept on laughing at me. It is frightening and hard for me to accept what I witnessed in a supposedly safe girls college”.

Video Credits: Anonymous

Video Caption: The entry witnessed lack of frisking and pass checking, leading to mass entry and overcrowding.

Anguished students who went to the principal and other officials to complain, reportedly received only her apathy and insensitive comments. A girl stated, “It was scary and traumatic, and the administration refused to help.”

Several members of the Public and Media Relations and Students’ Union volunteers tried their best to help the students. They went out forming human chains and getting the girls from the crowd inside the barricades. A volunteer comments, “We literally pushed and fought the men back, stood on chairs to hold hands of girls in the crowd and helped them in front. When we were forming a human chain around the stage, a bunch of guys intentionally hurled themselves upon us and we fell down on the speakers. They began laughing and commenting on our bodies”

A lot of students took to social media to share their thoughts and personal experiences.

Image Credits: Anonymous Image Caption: An Instagram story of a student explaining the incident.
Image Credits: Anonymous
Image Caption: An Instagram story of a student explaining the incident. (Part 1)
 Image Credits: Anonymous Image Caption: An Instagram story of a student explaining the incident. (Part 2)

Image Credits: Anonymous
Image Caption: An Instagram story of a student explaining the incident. (Part 2)
 Image Credits: Anonymous Image Caption: An Instagram story of a student explaining the incident. (Part 3)

Image Credits: Anonymous
Image Caption: An Instagram story of a student explaining the incident. (Part 3)
 Image Credits: Anonymous Image Caption: A student sharing her personal experience via Instagram.

Image Credits: Anonymous
Image Caption: A student sharing her personal experience via Instagram.

A student reported that she assisted in carrying out several women out of the ground in her hands. While two of them had panic attacks because of the harassment they faced, one was lying unconscious at the ground entry because a man had started masturbating at her. Another student was cornered by a group of middle aged drunk men who tried to molest her. On the assurance of anonymity, a second year student of Gargi College accounts, “15 girls cannot fight with 500 men alone. The teachers just sat on the sofas and saw everything unfold. When we asked them for help, we were told to fight everything ourselves.”

Anandi Sen from Kamla Nehru College, who also attended the fest, tells us, “I witnessed so many men just ‘scanning’ women from top to bottom. It is not only cheap but extremely creepy. The stares and silent smirks speak a lot. However there were some very decent people out there who ensured that you’re doing well in the jam packed crowd and ensuring that they do not brush or touch any person without their consent.”

There was a continuous pushing and passing comments in the dense crowd. Jammed networks made it worse – one couldn’t text or call in case of emergency because there were no signals. Students were stuck and couldn’t get out.

“I’ve always felt safe on campus except for the three days. The administration lets this happen trivializing our trauma year after year. We did not sign up to be told by the principal that itna unsafe feel karte ho toh mat aayakaro”, says a student of the College.

Random men stood outside the College throwing money at the girls, giving suggestive stares. Many of the girls were followed back to their PGs and metro stations by men in cars. A student reports that she was waiting outside the gate for a cab when a group of three boys adamantly kept on asking her if she wanted a ride and to just get in the car. This happened in the presence of police officers who were patrolling around.

“No amount of money you carelessly take for unknown people to enter the campus can ever pay up to my body being forced into being your property”, quotes Nilanjana.

A final year student wrote on her social media, “Gargi is our space to exist, where our voices are acknowledged not by the administration but by the wonderful women around us. However, every year, during Reverie, this one space we call our own is taken away from us and sacrificed to capitalism and hyper masculinity. We are afraid to move, we are harassed and ogled at. Men come and assert their dominance and toxic masculinity in the most brutal way possible, every year.”

In an official statement, the Students’ Union of Gargi College stated that gate duties are handled by the administrative staff wherein clear instructions were given by the Union to ensure lesser entries of only college students with a pass. Funds had been raised and made available for hiring a private security agency to ensure barricading outside the gate and competent bouncers. However nothing of this was in practice. Even the policemen weren’t as pro active as they should have been despite their repeated requests. Police vans were conveniently parked outside the college with all the mishaps taking place inside.

Image Source: Students' Union official statement.
Image Source: Students’ Union official statement.
Image Source: Students' Union official statement.
Image Source: Students’ Union official statement.

Suman, a student of the college summed up her fest experience, by stating, “Gargi you’re so much better, safe and homely without the star night”.

Feature Image Credits: Sanyukta Singh from Gargi College

Aishwaryaa Kunwar

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