The agitation against fee hike at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) reached Delhi University (DU) when progressive student fronts performed protest demonstration and effigy burning at North Campus.
The movement against arbitrary fee hike in JNU has garnered support from educational institutions all across the country. After the inhumane brutality of police forces won, the JNU students protesting became national news, many organisations and bodies joined hands to bestow their support. Most recent in line are the progressive student bodies of Delhi University who conducted a protest march in North Campus on Wednesday which followed effigy burning of Delhi Police, Home Minister Amit Shah and Baba Ramdev, who made spurious comments regarding Periyar, Birsa Munda, Savitribai Phule, and B.R Ambedkar yesterday.
All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Democratic Students’ Organisation (AIDSO), Pinjra Tod, Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) and other progressive collectives of DU organised this protest demonstration at Art Faculty from where the protesters circled a part of north campus. Chanting slogans of “Azadi” and “Halla Bol” along with placards condemning Delhi Police and Government Forces, the protesters walked past Campus Law Centre, Law Faculty and came back to Art Faculty where effigies of the were burnt.
“For the last one month, JNU students have been protesting for 999 percent fee hike and the introduction of a new hostel manual which is a step to push people from a deprived background, women, Dalits away from the University,” said Ankur Agraj, a second-year Law student at Campus Law Centre.
On the question of ABVP demanding the formation of a joint struggle committee for fee hike issue the AISA supporter said, “After all, ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) is also a student organization. Their supporters will also be affected by this hike. But the ABVP wing of JNU has displayed a pro VC (Vice Chancellor) stand from the very beginning. It’s important for them to understand that it’s not about Left or Right. The institution comes before your ideology.”
Neel Madhav, a final year Journalism student said, “The time has come to burn all the educational institutions of this country. Because, the government has finally proved that knowledge, merit, academics, and art hold no value in this country. They have made it so evident that family of a king will hold kinship and a poor will rot as a poor coming from marginalized background will remain poor for whole of his life.”
The support came from teachers as well. Laxman Yadav, Professor at Zakir Hussain College addressed the protester after effigy burning. He raised questions about the whereabouts of Najib, who went missing from JNU last year. “Democracy is being assassinated in Kashmir and PM says everything is fine. The way Kashmir is being throttled, education will also be chocked to death,” he expressed.
Narrating a story on why it is important to fight against administrative cruelty, Laxman said, “When there was fire in a forest, the bird tried to control it. On asking why is she doing this when it is obvious that she won’t be able to extinguish it, the bird said that she knows that, but when the history of this forest will be written, they will tell that this bird at least tried to stop the fire.”
For more than 80,000 students in Delhi University, only 4,000 hostels are afforded. The movement at Jawaharlal Nehru University has raised a critical question for the lack of hostel facilities and high fee structure here at Delhi University.
30th October, 2018, became a historically significant day for the Miranda House Girls’ Hostel, as the Hostel gates stayed open into the dawn, as the students protested outside. To celebrate the completion of one year to this day, and mandate authoritative action to allow the hostellers more liberty, another sit-in was organised by the Miranda House Girls’ Hostel residents.
The protest was led by Pinjra Tod, a student’s collective that works for secure, affordable and non-gender discriminatory accommodation for women across Delhi.
The events of the said night happened in this chronological order:
Activists of ‘Pinjra Tod: Break the Hostel Locks’ called for a protest outside the gates of Arts Faculty, Delhi University, on the night of October 30th, demanding that the Miranda House hostel curfew be rolled back completely. Earlier, on October 8th and 10th, Pinjra Tod had organised protest marches and all-night sit-ins in North Campus, Delhi University.
Previously, on October 10th, the activists of Pinjra Tod had given the deadline of October 30th to the University administration to accept all their demands. The Principal of Miranda House, Pratibha Jolly had talked to the protesters and listened to their demands, giving the assurance that the issues would be discussed by the administration, and appropriate measures would be taken.
Ishika, participant at the protest, a Miranda House student told DU Beat, “The protest began very calmly, there was no aggression or violence. The hostel committee and the principal cooperated well with us, and when demands were put forward, they agreed to all.”
Pratibha Jolly, Principal of Miranda House, in reply to Pinjra Tod said, “As a constituent college of University of Delhi we have been discussing the issue at the highest level.”
However, most of the demands were not met. The hostel curfew was extended from 8:30 PM to 9 PM only, with a few extra night-outs added and number of leaves increased.
The college had put up notices stating that “due information must be given to the Hostel Administrative Staff before Night Out is availed. This must be duly recorded in the Leave Book.”
An informal WhatsApp message had been circulated, which stated that the late-night timings will remain the same, and night leaves will be sanctioned on the same day only in case of emergency.
The student collective Pinjra Tod termed the extension of 30 minutes for hostels as a “joke” and demanded complete abolition of curfew timing at Miranda House.
Pinjra Tod said, “This extension of half an hour is a cruel joke, another attempt at humiliating and infantilising the dignity, dreams and struggles of women students.”
The true reason for an intensified reaction to these rigorous hostel curfews was allegedly that the college had put up notices stating, “Residents can return to the hostel at any time of the night on a night-out and short-notice/ emergency night-outs can be availed by filling in a form at the gate and (there) is no need (for) one day advance notice,” which was far from the reality.
Following the student’s protest, the students in defiance organised a sit-in that continued all night. The students protested outside the hostel gate and the gates of the hostel remained open.
The agitators said, “These new changes are important relaxations in the existing rules, but we really refuse to get dragged into this bureaucratic non-sense, which continues to reinforce power in the hands of the administration.”
The series of protest led by Pinjra Tod, paves way for new meaning of freedom for many hostellers.
The Daulat Ram College hostel residents continue to suffer at the hands of their matron as the HC Inspection is underway.
Unhygienic toilets, walls crawling with roaches and semi-cooked food, the tyranny of the Daulat Ram College hostel towards its residents continues.The residents of Daulat Ram College hostel have been protesting for months against the warden and the matron. Facilities in the hostel are in deplorable condition along with incessant moral policing and sexist comments.
In February residents of the hostel marched to the Vice Chancellors office and staged a sit down, demanding their rights. The Delhi High Court, finally intervened in the matter.During the inspection by court commissioners, allegations of harassment over social media posts and usage of makeup were reported.
In the detailed report by Nandita Rao and Shubham Mahajan, acute shortage of toilets and it’s facilities were reported. The rooms too were found to be in dilapidated condition.
An aura of fear and hatred surrounds the hostel, “The condition of the hostel is terrible. What is really disheartening is that one can bear the effect of the lack of infrastructure to some extent but the fact that there is nothing space for even mental relaxation is traumatizing. Several students are having anxiety issues and the matron doesn’t seem to care even a tad bit.” said, a second year resident of the hostel.
Another resident who chose to stay anonymous elaborates on the moral policing and harassment, “the matron takes printouts of social media pages like Instagram and shames the women. Her sexist remarks are nothing new.”
“It’s almost like she’s taking revenge” continued another student, “the washrooms were filthy before the protests and HC inspection, now they are worse. The food has affected my health. I can’t go back to the hostel, it’s a horrific place. It has affected my mental and physical health”.
The matron, Dr. Sushma Tandon has been the hostel matron for over 40 years has had compliance against her earlier as well. The tumultuous and tyrannical atmosphere has barely given students space to breathe.
“The HC inspection took place about a month ago, and the commissioners who came were really helpful and sweet, and more than that understanding. But between the inspection, and the submission of this report, the SC gave a stay order to the current warden, which made the students lose all hope.” The matron has now reportedly resorted back to harassing students and students are forced to pay the mess fee which they had boycotted during the protests. The verbal abuse too, has ensued.
Students regret ending the protest too soon. “We had help from Pinjra Tod too however, we ended the protests too soon. Maybe that gave them an excuse to treat us this way”
The High Court has now directed the report should be placed before the Supreme court, which is hearing the matter relating to appointment of the girls hostel warden.
Women across India marched together to claim their constitutional rights as the citizens of a
On 4th April 2019, women across all ages, religions and social classes came together to voice their collective dissent against the current government and their propagation of a politics of violence and hatred. The march began at Mandi House and was carried on till Jantar Mantar. The march was a part of a larger movement in India titled ‘Women March for Change’.
The movement represents the outrage that women and other marginalized communities have been facing since the last five years and their attempts to cement their position as equal stakeholders of democracy and the political process.The march was followed by a program which included speeches and performances of various groups and collectives across Delhi-NCR. There were student feminist groups, tribal right activists, gender rights activists, dalit feminists groups, female farmer groups to name a few. This revolutionary march witnessed diversity of voices and was a big milestone for the Indian feminist movement and the Indian social justice movement. The call for solidarity stated, “For the last five years, women of India have watched with growing anger as our struggles for equality have been dented and our hard-won freedoms undermined. We have watched misogyny, hate and lies being spread across the land. Today, on the eve of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we say no more.”
Prominent student groups present in the march were members of Pinjra Tod, Women Development Cells of Lady Shri Ram College, Indraprastha College and Miranda House. When asked about their personal motivations for attending the march, students spoke about a range of issues referring to the political climate of the day. “There is a constant invisibalization of women’s struggles, politicians include us in their policies, Rahul Gandhi says the Womens’ Reservation Bill will be passed, but it only a tokenistic gesture. It’s high time for us to claim public spaces,” said Deeksha, a second-year student from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. Some also spoke of their personal struggles and sought to join the fight against the patriarchal structure, “We don’t have any freedom, even today my father tells me what not to wear, where to not go and so on. We need to get over this mindset,” said a student from Lady Shri Ram College.
Students also expressed concerns about the representation of women in politics, both in policy decisions and at important positions in the country. A student pointed out that even with three female cabinet ministers, important press conferences and announcements are always done by the male members of the cabinet citing the example of Shri. Arun Jaitley addressing the crowd after Balakot strike. “It’s disheartening to see women in politics only being referred to as somebody’s amma (mother), beti (daughter) or behen (sister). In my constituency, a female candidate was contesting for the assembly seat but the posters had pictures of her husband,” another complained.
A major concern for all the students was the condition of minorities under the current government. Most felt that although it was predominantly a women’s march, it stood for equality. It sought to dismantle a system that has been controlled by a specific section of the population whose policies and ideas made it dangerous for minorities to live in the country. Jaya Sharma, who works for a non- profit fighting for the rights of adivasi women said, “It’s extremely scary for all of us, I’m an upper caste, upper class Hindu woman and even for me the implications are scary. We cannot even begin to imagine the extent of fear that minorities feel. If there is anything we can do to stop them from coming to power again, we should do it.”
Although it was a big milestone for the feminist movement, it was very rare to see this scale of intersectionality in representation. A lot of students agreed to the fact that because of the social class they belonged to and the universities they attended, their feminism was not necessarily inclusive enough. “That is why it’s important to come to spaces like these where you get to see the larger picture. The correct way to participate is to be conscious of the things you are saying, conscious of music you are listening to, to be aware on a day to day basis, to reflect on your mistakes and apologize. I think it’s a process,” said Sharon from Jesus and Mary College when asked about how she ensures inclusivity in her feminism. Amala from O.P Jindal Global University added, “I try to constantly read other voices from communities who don’t necessarily occupy a big place in society and therefore try to take myself out of the echo- chamber and try to encourage other people to do that as well. Obviously our university spaces are very elite and privileged, but we have to ensure that we’re exposed to other voices as well.”
The march and in extension, the movement is being carried out with the hope of carving out a distinct and powerful voice in the political scenario. “I would like to be heard. This is more of a pre-election forum for women to voice their struggles and to make it known to people that they are a force in the country “ said a student when asked what she hoped would be the outcome of the march. ‘Save our Constitution’, was what the biggest banner in the march said and it was reflective of the palpable fear that all the participants held. The actions of the current government has attacked the core values of our constitution that it had affected every single community that lived in the country.
Hailstones and rain weren’t enough to dent the spirits of the protestors and the supporters of the ‘Virgin Tree Pooja’ in their respective efforts to advocate their causes.
The Hindu College’s ‘ritual’ or ‘tradition’ of worshipping the Virgin Tree aka V-tree every Valentine’s Day in hopes of losing one’s virginity was met with huge protests this year. Women’s Development Cells and gender forums of colleges across Delhi University stood in solidarity against the tradition, which is widely held as being sexist. This year there were slight modifications to the ceremony – instead of posters of one male and one female celebrity, a poster of a married couple of Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma was put up, along with a poster that read ‘love has no gender’.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Pinjra Tod protested against the ceremony, demanding its cancellation this year. Protesters from various student organisations and Pinjra Tod gathered at and tried entering from gate number four of the college. The group was met with resistance and counter-sloganeering from the Hindu College boys’ hostel. Both parties claimed to have received threats from each other.
Around midnight, the residents of the girls’ hostel managed to break the curfew and joined the protest against the tradition. According to a Facebook post by Pinjra Tod, Dr Anju Srivastava, the Principal of the college, attempted to enter the college premises around 3 a.m.; she later congratulated the residents of the boys’ hostel for ‘keeping the tradition alive’ while threatening the residents of the women’s hostel for breaking the curfew. Police present at the time of the incident tried controlling the situation.
The first round of the ritual was conducted at 6 a.m. on 14th of February fearing backlash and protests later. As the hours passed and the weather turned worse, Hindu College saw dissenters and supporters gathering around the Virgin Tree. The Hindu College Progressive Front (HCPF) got in a heated argument with members from the boys hostel. Students from Pinjra Tod and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) also turned up in protest. Clashing slogans of ‘azadi’, ‘puja ho ke rahegi!’, ‘nahi sahenge’ echoed through the college.
The views of the crowds were split. On one hand there were clear advocates of the pooja, while on the other there were fierce protestors. Even among those who were opposed to the pooja, some didn’t appreciate the involvement of non-Hinduite protestors, while others objected to the manner in which the protests turned out to be.
The aarti was performed in a hurry while some men encircled the tree, preventing any protesters from barging in as the Mr. Fresher of the hostel, Shaurya Pratap Singh performed the rituals. “This V-Tree pooja became the grandest in the history of Hindu College”, said Shaurya Pratap Singh, the boys’ hostel Mr Fresher who did the pooja. “We decided to modify the pooja, butdespite us cooperating, Pinjra Tod came last night and started sloganeering,” he said. Singh alleged that some students from the boys’ hostel who were defending the pooja were “beaten up” and “harassed”. Allegations of intimidation and confrontation were mutual between the opposing parties. Instances of fist fights were also seen during the ritual.
Ananya Bhardwaj, who led the HCPF during the college parliamentary elections and was on the forefront of the day’s protest, said, “Today is a victory because just the symbolic act of men leaving a public space and going back to their private space is a victory today we reclaimed the public space”. Asked about what was the objective they wanted to achieve, she said, “We just had to create a fear in these men that you cannot lay claim to our bodies and lay claim to spaces which also belong to us, which we did.” Diya, a student representing Pinjra Tod told us about similar objectives, saying that the idea was to not let the pooja go unchallenged and uninterrupted. The Prime Minister of the college Parliament, Shreyash Mishra, commented that the original intention of the pooja was to break the taboo towards condoms, which he appreciated, along with the modifications brought in to the ceremony this time by the hostel union.
Moral victories were claimed by both sides. Both ended up celebrating by dancing to dhols and shouting slogans of their preference. The police stood on standby as students celebrated.
As the dust settled and normalcy is restored, a few questions still hang in the air. Does merely adding a rainbow heart to a sexist ritual make it acceptable? Do Hindu College boys’ hostel union claim to be truly progressive only because they include a “Love Guru” in addition to “Damdami Mata”, but stay absent when the girls’ hostel in their own college fights against curfew? Should a decade’s old unique ritual, that adds vibrancy and character to a place, be completely removed instead of being reformed? What modifications are needed and should be accepted? What can be the correct ways of protesting and initiating dialoge? Who decides what’s correct?
Image Credits: Pinjra Tod, unknown sources, and Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat
On 25th January,2019, the Delhi Police shut down the screening of Father, Son And Holy War, organised by Pinjra Tod as a part of its ‘Humara Mohalla’ initiative.
Pinjra Tod, organised a screening of the documentary ‘Father, Son And Holy War’ directed by Anand Partwardhan on 25th January from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in D.D.A Market, Hudson Lane.‘Father, Son, and Holy War’ is a 1994 film made in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, which explores the links between toxic masculinity, nationalism and religious violence.
Halfway through the screening, the police arrived, forcefully cutting off the electricity supply, stopping the screening, and coerced all the shops to shut down. They stated that they received a complaint that the film encircled on the lines of ‘deshdroh’. The girls showed immense resistance and still continued to watch the screen the film on laptop.
Subhashini, a member of the organisation who attended the screening said, “The film dealt with the relationship between right wing ultra-nationalism, the patriarchal fervour, and models of hyper-masculinity that it both uses and propagates. However, a few policemen started gathered around during the screening, later followed by a van.” She informed that the organisation had already submitted an information letter at the Police Station, yet they were forced to shut down the film.
According to The Indian Express, Additional DCP, A K Lal, denied the allegations. “We received a call from a local that some documentary on religious clashes was being screened. We went, saw what was happening and returned without stopping the screening,” Lal said. However, some reports claim that the screening was being carried without any prior permission.The police claim that they stopped the screening, but deny cutting off the electricity supply.
A bunch of young men tried to record the representatives of the organisation. During a confrontation, a stone was thrown at the students, against which no action was taken by the authorities. The men also shouted, “Hindu-Muslim ke baare mein baat karna is a law and order issue”.
DU Beat spoke to Paroma Ray, co-ordinator of the Humara Mohalla initiative. She said,“The Police blocked the screen, but we managed to push them away and continued with the screening. Seeing this, they shut down all the stores and dispersed the crowd. They also shut down the power supply to the projectors.” Paroma further informs that Pinjra Tod has conducted many such screenings in the past.
It is to be noted that Pinjra Tod has alleged Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad(ABVP) called the police to stop the screening. Despite this, the girls were successfully able to complete the movie screening on their laptop. Slogans such as ‘Naari-Shakti Zindabaad’ and ‘ABVP khabardaar’ could be heard post the screening of the film.
After releasing a charter of demands regarding the hostel regulations and receiving a dissatisfying response from the administration, LSR united with Pinjra Tod on 5th November to demonstrate a protest against curfews, gendered treatment, absence of OBC reservations, and more.
At 5 PM on 3rd November 2018, the students of Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College, along with supporters from Pinjra Tod, collected outside the main-gate of LSR to engage in a protest. The protest’s objective was to get the administration to come out of the college gates and to engage with them on the demands listed in the charter released by Pinjra Tod and LSR.
Some of the demands from the charter stem from a practice of sexist and hypocritical foundations, students stated. The University Grants’ Commission’s regulations prohibit discriminatory rules citing safety considerations for women. For example, the curfew was 10 PM before 3rd November 2018, and it was mandatory for the first-year residents to acquire the signature of either of the two wardens in a ‘day-slip’, if they wished to move out of college at any time of the day before 7:30 PM. Staying out at night was permissible for only four nights a month, and even then the tedious procedure ensured the restrictions on the women’s mobility.
The accounts of the residents present a picture of gendered discrimination and judgements, which also includes practices ignoring the PWD residents’ convenience in mobilisation in the hostel premises. On the condition of anonymity, a resident shared that once when another LSR hostel resident was moving out after 7:30 PM, she was asked the following by the authority at the hostel- “Kiska bistar garam karne jaa rahi ho?” Several other residents revealed the hypocrisy in citing safety in maintaining curfews for adult women, while at the same time ‘gating out’, i.e. suspending the residents for breaking alleged rules, at any given time. A student was once forced to spend the night at the railway station when her train reached late enough for her to miss the 10 PM deadline.
When demonstrations were announced, the administration accepted a few demands from the charter, to be exercised from the beginning of the second semester, i.e. 1st January 2019, which are as follows:
The curfew timings were pushed to 10:30 PM.
The concept of ‘only four nights out’ was amended to the attendance rule of 60% per month.
The system of issuing day slips stands abolished, and identity cards will be issued.
Instead of the rule of making mandatory two local guardians (married), there will be the provision of an emergency contact number.
Leaves will be issued without the signatures of any local guardian or parents.
Appropriate changes will be made in the Hostel Handbook.
There has been no abolition of the curfew, or adherence to the reservation guidelines for the OBC community, and many other significant demands remain unaddressed. Pinjra Tod gathered in lieu of the said events, and the students shouted slogans like ‘Kuchh salaakhein tooti hain, poora pinjra baaki hai!’ (‘Some grates have broken, the entire cage remains!’), ‘Pitrisatta ka khol de pol, pinjra tod, pinjra tod!’ (‘Demolish the patriarchy, break the cage, break the cage!’), etc. to remind the college administration of the hypocrisy used to justify the regulations in hostel.
Over 50 women joined the demonstration, and the momentum increased such that an ultimatum was declared by the protesters, according to which the principal was asked to engage with them outside the college gates by 6:30 PM. The principal, Dr. Suman Sharma, did not respond to the cries and demands of the demonstrators. The vice-principal and a few members of the college administration stepped out of the gates, and attempted to deter the protest through a dialogue, but the demonstrators shouted ‘shame’ and refused the reported tokenistic gestures.
The Hostel’s Union was not present at the demonstration, nor was any statement of solidarity released from its end. Allegedly, some members of the union approached the administration in confidence and stated that they had been feeling ‘pressurised and attacked’ by the methods of the protest. After 8 PM on the 5th, the union released a statement defending its non-participation and non-solidarity for the protest, and also addressed other concerns in it.
At 6:16 PM, the LSR Students’ Union representatives, Katyani and Drishti, announced that they were going to engage with the administration to make them aware of the demonstrators’ decision to break open the college gates, if they failed to address them. No fruition occurred of the expected nature for the students as the administration proposed permitting only the current students of LSR to assemble in the college auditorium for a discussion on the demands. The demonstrators refused, and at 6:48 PM the demonstration took to the road. The one-way was blocked by the demonstration and the traffic assimilated for approximately thirty minutes before being diverted by the police officials. Women alleged groping and perverse remarks directed at them by the men gathered outside LSR.
Almost a quarter past seven, the demonstrators marched towards the intersection at the traffic signal, when their demands remained unheard by the administration. Around 8:30 PM, the students were let into the premises and the principal agreed to address them. Due to the apprehension of being intimidated by the administration, many demonstrators sat outside the gate and continued raising the slogans against the regulations.
The official account of Pinjra Tod remains that the principal left within a quick while of her appearance before the student community. They stated: “LSR principal barely came out for two minutes and left the protest site. All of campus is militarised with police men & plain clothed police women, they beat up women mercilessly. They say they will implement OBC reservation once there are more seats!” Members of the SU are reported to have been pelted at with stones, and scratched as they extended their explicit support to the cause. At 10:30 PM, the demonstrators broke through the hostel gates and continue to chant revolutionary slogans, singing songs to claim their liberty by defying the curfew for the day.
At 10:30 am on 6th November, about 30 faculty members entered the hostel and the hostel-residents’ account revealed that they were not allowed to move outside and assembling in the dining hall was made compulsory. The students gathered outside the hostel again.
Day-scholars and residents later assembled in the hostel gardens, where the faculty members addressed the students. In the dialogue, the hostel union’s President, Aarushi, stated that they would issue a solidarity statement if those students, who wish for the curfew to continue and had previously approached them personally, did not explicitly voice their perspective at the time.
A student who had been accused of intimidating the union, stated that the demands were being suggested as reductive when there was much more than the curfew.
Professors stated that they would listen to the demands point by point, and respond accordingly. When the issue of WiFi was brought up, the faculty members agreed with the demand and stated that they had already complained regarding it, and the inadequacy of the WiFi was not solely for the hostel residents. They were working upon it. The students demanded a deadline for the course of action.
The protests have paused for now and the new plan of action is as follows:
A new, more detailed charter of demands will be formed by 7th November as the administration has accepted certain demands already and they have termed the main demands ‘vague’.
The deadline for sending a written response back to the demonstrators is Sunday for the administration.
The principal has to address the students on Monday in the auditorium. If she fails to, or if the students remain dissatisfied, then the protests will resume from Monday onwards.
Attendance was not adhered to yesterday, and the same will happen on Monday.
The hostel warden has suggested that she will forward the letter to the principal herself, and Katyani from the Students’ Union stated that the students’ body of LSR will be present to back up the demands.
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.
Despite several marches and protests, the curfew rules in several girls hostels in the University haven’t changed. Now, the organisation Pinjratod, which has been on the forefront of this movement, has new plans.
Two days ago, Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology saw a wave of uprising as the women students refused to enter the hostel till their curfew time was raised. Yesterday, students from Punjab University in Patiala too carried on their hunger strike against curfew timings, with one of the girls even suffering from a case of dengue. Meanwhile, all this week and today, the walls of North Campus are being enveloped by rectangular posters sporting reddish hues, posters calling out students for responding to the call of change echoing all over the nation, for joining Pinjratod’s all night indefinite protest.
Pinjratod has also been news in Delhi University with their bold approach in making PGs and hostels less regressive for women students. It started from one cause but now stands for many other injustices that students in the University of Delhi face. Thankfully, with recent protests erupting in different nooks and corners of the country on these very same issues, Pinjratod’s support is only increasing. Often, the case has been that boys hostels are found to have more flexible timings or curfew as compared to the hostels of their female counterparts, which is seen as unequal and unjustified by many. The dissatisfaction behind this can clearly be seen in examples mentioned above. However, this time, it seems like an all out demand against the authority as the indefinite protest is aimed at demanding a “complete removal of curfew for all girls hostels”.
A member of Pinjratod on the condition of anonymity states in conversation with the DU Beat correspondent, “The freedom of women students in university spaces has constantly been curtailed through the imposition of arbitrary curfews by hostels, under the pretext of “safety.” Pinjratod has been persistently raising demands with the DU authorities against the discriminatory curfews and the time has come we remind them again. A memorandum has been submitted to the Vice Chancellor, with the various demands regarding hostel allocation, curfew timings and fee structure, etc. As always, there has been no action taken by the authorities. It is about time we rise to the call of the muffled voices of the women students across colleges and we appeal to all women to join us for the indefinite protest that is to be held on Monday. This fight for liberation shall be maintained. Our oppression shall not be trivialised and this blatant sexism in the name of caution by our detainers shall not be normalised.”
Being promoted with the posters reading “DU against curfew”, the protest is set to start from 4 pm on the 8th of October. There are other allied demands such as need-based allocation of hostel seats (instead of merit) and strict implementation of SC, ST, OBC and PwD reservations in all women’s hostels. With many negotiations, aid by the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) and scores of protests, the University hasn’t really nodded their heads to Pinjratod’s demands in the past. So, would this week’s effort by Pinjratod succeed in breaking the shackles of the University’s unequal hostel rules or would it again lead to inaction and further delays on the part of the authorities? That, only time will tell.