Language is a medium that allows us to communicate, identify, and express ourselves. However, this kind of expression, along with other social identities, usually results in systemic prejudice against particular communities. Whether it’s the language’s fundamentals, which reflect and reinforce gender binary norms, or its intersection with an individual’s religion, nationality, or place of belonging.

Religion, gender, and language are often categorised as the building blocks of an individual’s identity. Each of these factors influences a person’s beliefs, values, and perceptions of themselves and others. Often, discrimination based on religion, gender, or linguistic choices is seen independently; nevertheless, the confluence of gender and religion, as well as linguistic preference, has a significant influence on individuals and communities. While religion influences a person’s moral and ethical ideals, gender incorporates social and cultural expectations, and language both reflects and reinforces gender binary norms in society.  

Religion & Language:

Language has always been a fundamental tool for portraying a religion. Whether it’s Arabic for Islam, Sanskrit for Hinduism, or Hebrew for Christianity, all of these affiliations stem from sacred texts written in these languages. Harold Schiffman in his book, “Linguistics, Culture and Language Policy’ explains that “One of the most basic issues where language and religion intersect is the existence, in many cultures, of sacred texts […]. For cultures where certain texts are so revered, there is often almost an identity of language and religion, such that the language of the texts also becomes sacred…”) 

However, with the need for a separate identity, this linkage of languages tied to certain religions mutated over time. The shift in language of South Asian Muslims to Urdu, Hindus to Hindi, and Christians to English is an important example of this. This language shift describes how linguistic choices change as the need for a separate identity grows. 

However, these linguistic freedoms quickly devolved into systemic discrimination against minority populations. Massive protests erupted at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 2020 over the appointment of a Muslim associate professor in the faculty of literature of Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV). Protesters argued that a Muslim professor would be incapable of teaching Sanskrit, a Hindu language. NDTV writes, “The administration backed the professor. The panel that selected him, which includes Professor Radhavallabh Tripathi, one of India’s most eminent Sanskrit scholars, repeatedly said he(the appointed Muslim professor) was the most qualified candidate.”

Not only that, but hate campaigns and violence erupted in various parts of India in light of the use of Urdu in advertisements for ‘Hindu festivals.’ Nivedita Menon, a professor at the Centre for Political Studies at JNU, told Al Jazeera, The Hindutva project sees Urdu as a ‘Muslim’ language. And invisibilising Urdu is part of the larger project of marginalising the Muslim community, in fact, physically eliminating it.” Linguists and historians contend that Hindi and Urdu evolved from ‘Khadi Boli,’ a dialect of the Delhi region, and are profoundly influenced by Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and Sanskrit. This hatred of a language because its identity is associated with a minority religion, despite its origins in India, highlights how segregation and systematic hatred towards minority religions are carried out through the use of languages.

Gender & Language:

Languages reflect and reinforce gender norms and the gender binary. This has an intricate connection with the culture, religion, and history of the language. In recent years, queer activists and linguists all over the world have advocated for the necessity of gender-neutral terms. While some languages incarcerate gender in binaries, others prove gender’s presence outside of binaries by not gendering inanimate objects. While individuals assert that gender-neutral language is a Western concept, many Indian languages dispute this claim. Languages like Bangla, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Kannada, Angika, Maithili, and others do not limit gender into binaries, while Sanskrit uses masculine, feminine, and gender-neutral terms to refer to inanimate objects.

However, the most widely spoken languages, such as Hindi and French, do enforce binary. So, why are certain languages unable to use gender-neutral verb conjugation? While extra research is needed, basic efforts by native speakers of these languages may increase the possibilities of making these languages inclusive for everyone.

“On my first day of my bachelor’s degree, when I addressed myself as ‘hum’, my professor asked me how many people I am addressing with myself.”- Chandan Kumar, in an article by Youth ki Awaaz. This linguistic rigidity is a result of the Hindi belt’s class superiority. Hindi teachers must stop such rigorous pronoun implementation, and textbooks should be revised to include a discussion of gender outside of binaries. Another source of optimism is the use of second-person pronouns in Hindi. The usage of ‘aap’ while speaking to elders or as a sign of respect, regardless of gender, supports the idea that ‘aap is neutral and assuming someone’s gender is disrespectful.’ Aside from this, we can make our language more inclusive by not strictly categorising non-living things as masculine or feminine.

While language has the potential to bring people together, it can also be used to isolate and oppress them. While individuals argue that changing language to incorporate gender-neutral terminology is impossible since language represents history and culture, the development and shift to new languages by religious communities as the need for a separate identity emerged rejects this notion.

Read Also: Language and Patriarchy: The Case of Gendered Language

Featured Image Credits: Deccan Herald

Dhruv Bhati

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Concerns over student safety at prestigious universities are raised by the latest molestation incident at IIT-BHU. Students from different colleges question whether such institutions effectively prioritise security of its female students.

In recent times, an alarming surge in incidents compromising the safety of gender minority students has come to light in college campuses. Notably, such occurrences are increasingly prevalent in some of the country’s most popular universities. From instances of girls being recorded while they were changing at IIT Delhi during a competition to the distressing case at IIT-BHU, where a girl was undressed and molested; similar reports have emerged from Delhi University’s campuses, including Miranda House, Gargi College, and IPCW, where men forcibly entered gender-minority spaces. 

While the nature of these cases varies, they all raise a common concern: Are gender minorities genuinely safe in campus spaces? 

At IIT-BHU, an alarming incident occurred on November 1, where a student was molested by three unknown men late at night. This led to a widespread protest organised by students, not just for the victim’s justice but for broader concerns. 

“IIT-BHU shares its campus space with the main university. The open campus allows unrestricted entry even post-midnight, with inadequate checking and recordkeeping. The absence of a boundary wall and a lack of security pose a risk to safety. It’s because of these loopholes that the offenders in this case are still not caught,”

-A student from IIT BHU. 

However, the blame for the incident was wrongly placed on the victim herself, highlighting a double-standard whereby male students can roam freely at any hour while female students face restrictions and are held responsible for any mishap. It makes one wonder if the administration will ever accept their failure or not. These security concerns are not unique to IIT-BHU; they echo across various renowned universities. 

“Female students often find themselves confined to hostels during festivals like Holi and Diwali from potential threats created by men. However, there is a lack of measures to control and manage the actions of those who make common public spaces unsafe for female students. How will this situation change when the onus is always on the female and there is a lack of control and action on the people who create this nuance?”

-Shreya, a student from IPCW, argues. 

“While I feel safe at my college campus, the same cannot be said about the surrounding campus area, especially at odd hours. Cases of Eve-teasing, bag snatching, and stalking have repeatedly happened, and it is worrisome for students who have to be constantly vigilant while they live in such areas with narrow roads and less security.”

-Ananya, a student from Miranda House. 

While all-women spaces generally offer more comfort and protection, there remains a fear of outsiders violating these spaces. In co-ed colleges, where there is a persistent fear of the male gaze, posed by both outsiders and insiders. Students describe how they are constantly concerned about what they should wear, say, and do. 

“We can’t guarantee the behaviour of students at colleges because of the extremely diverse population. In many coed colleges, casual teasing and mocking are normal, and nobody takes any notice unless something really serious occurs.” 

-A student from Dyal Singh college. 

When examining the role of college administration and the police, students believe that basic safety measures such as security guards, CCTVs, and boundary walls are present on the majority of campuses. The lack of this has led to the recent fight of IIT-BHU students where they demand a secure campus with a suitable security method to track the entry of outsiders. Although, it is a crucial step forward, accounts from other supposedly “safe” campuses like IIT-Delhi, IPCW and Miranda House where these measures were breached, shed scepticism about how effective these measures really are. The fundamental question still stands: Are college campuses truly able to safeguard gender minorities, or are we normalising harassment in these seemingly “student friendly” places? 

It should be noted that resolving gender minority safety issues on college campuses necessitates a comprehensive approach that includes strict safety standards, heightened awareness, police patrolling, and a change in collective mindset. Regardless of the gender, it is imperative to establish a safe space for all students and ensure that the onus of safety does not unfairly fall on the victims.

Read Also: Women’s Safety in DU: How Safe Are We?

Featured Image Credits: Edexlive

Priya Agrawal 

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Good-byes are the hardest; even harder with our professors. But what do we do when we find ourselves amidst the ad-hoc crisis?

What does college life mean to us? Does it mean romanticizing the red-brick walls? Or does it mean romanticizing the kurta– tote bag- chai inner core? Whatever it means, it surely stands for something unique for each of us. However, amidst the beauty of this chaos, lies a hard feeling of being lost, a feeling that could only be felt as words fall short to describe it. But how did we land up to this position? Is it because of the cute little fights over lunch breaks or are those never-ending assignments to be blamed? To be fair here, I feel these are the memories we take along with us and the reason to feel lost has another story behind it.

When we transition from school to college, we bring along a bag full of expectations. Apart from to-be-realized life-long friendships, we do expect to find mentors and guides who would not just be limited to the pale-yellow walled classroom but would bring solace when life happens to us. However, what happens if the “academic universe” decides to take them away from you? What happens when you find yourself alone again? What happens when you get the guidance you yearned for only to realize it to exist for a short-run? This is what it feels when we encounter the issue of ad-hoc displacement.

Currently, the Delhi University (DU) is underway with hirings for permanent positions. According to a report by Indian Express, as of April 2023, 4500-5000 permanent positions were to be filled and by then 100-150 ad-hoc teachers were already displaced in the process. The interview process for filling of the permanent posts began in the later half of 2022.

To give you a jest of how these applications are processed; the interviews are taken by a selection committee. Under the University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations, this committee comprises of the principal of the college; the chairperson of the college’s governing body, or their nominee; the head of the department in charge of the subject; two V-C nominees; two external subject matter experts; and, in the event that any other members of the selection committee do not fall into one of these categories, an academician representing the SC, ST, OBC, minority communities, women, or differently abled categories.

If we go by the text-book, everything looks clean. However, I find myself incapable of judging whether things are fair or not. Due to this paucity, I will only be presenting you all with facts and figures and perhaps the questions that loom in every corner of my mind.

Recently, the sociology department of Indraprastha College for Women (IPCW) went through a whirlpool when five ad-hoc professors of the department, who were teaching at the college since years, all of a sudden found themselves out of job as the list with (new) permanent teachers was released. In a similar fashion, a (former) ad-hoc teacher, Pankaj Sarma of Kirori Mal College, suddenly found himself jobless, though he gave his ten years to the institution.

Similarly, late Samarveer of Hindu College, died by suicide as told by his family member due to his sudden removal from his job. Samarveer was an ad-hoc professor in the Philosophy department of the college. You name a college and this is the same story spinning everywhere.

To pin point here, if you get a sudden news that your professor resigned, it could either be that they finally understood what is about to unfold and voluntarily resigned or they met their fates of getting displaced. As sad as this reality would sound, this is what has been happening in the institution that is supposed to nurture the next-generation leaders, changemakers, and thinkers.

Even though I try to reel out of the pain of losing a mentor who not just guided me through the dreadful semester exams but showed me what I am capable of, what more I can achieve, and how much more power is to be realized as we move ahead in our lives, I stand dejected to know that my guiding light may have lost their shine. Though I know they are better-off and a place like this may not deserve them but I also know how blessed the students were to have a person like them in their lives. No words could give anyone a “job-security,” especially for a job they love. But as I come to the end, I could only hope to meet them again, perhaps while discussing our next adventure together.

Read Also: Social Media Vilification of Nerd Archetype

Featured Image Credits: The Quint

Ankita Baidya

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Concerns have been expressed regarding the decision to temporarily relocate DU’s health centre to the Umang Bhawan basement, as it is deemed unfit for the proper functioning of a medical facility.

The University of Delhi recently decided to renovate its health centre on its North Campus. While that process continues, the centre has been temporarily shifted to the basement of Umang Bhawan at the Law Faculty. This decision has raised multiple concerns among the teaching and non-teaching staff. 

Many have stated that the basement has no proper sunlight and ventilation and is therefore not fit to run a health centre in. Staff members at the World University Service (WUS) have urged DU to reconsider this choice. WUS is the Geneva-based non-governmental organisation that commissioned the health centre in 1955. The centre assists 600-800 patients every single day. Approximately 7,200 superannuated university employees, 18,500 permanent employees with their dependents, as well as various resident and non-resident students, avail themselves of the services of this health centre. 

In addition, all staff (teaching and non-teaching) are members of the centre and contribute to it as an insurance charge. It is therefore being said that the university needs to show more responsibility and concern for the health of all members instead of taking a decision that neglects it. 

The inadequacy of available provisions, such as limited toilet facilities and the low height of the building, has raised concerns about the potential spread of infections and diseases in such an environment.

Both students and teachers utilise the facility for regular and emergency purposes. With classes functioning on other floors, the environment won’t be right for unwell people,”

-Seema Das, a member of the Executive Council.

A worried teacher conveyed concern by saying that it’s not wise to make the health centre function from a basement, especially since the construction of the renovated one could take multiple years. A medical facility ought to follow some rules regarding hygiene and safety that are being ignored by the university.  

Read also: Hindu College Develops Hybrid Air Disinfection Machine to Tackle Delhi’s Air Quality Crisis 

Featured image source: Mint 

Arshiya Pathania

[email protected]

Unpacking the conflict, its roots, and the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In the heart of the Middle East, a long-standing conflict continues to shape the lives of millions. The Israel-Palestine issue, with its roots dating back over a century, drew global attention again after the last few weeks’ events. The abundance of misinformation available online can be daunting, making it all the more important to form informed opinions and be responsible global citizens, which is necessary in such turbulent times. 

For a very brief background, The 1917 Balfour Declaration promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine to aid persecuted European Jews, sparking tensions with residing Palestinian Arabs. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel emerged, leading to the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians, and this day was marked as Nakba (a catastrophe) by the Palestinians. In 1967, Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, areas that had held Palestinians for generations, and established Jewish settlements. UN calls for withdrawal were refused. The Palestinian people saw this as an illegal occupation, and one major group resorting to violence to fight it (for a lack of Palestine’s military) grew in prominence in the 1980s. This organisation was called Hamas, and it took control of Gaza in 2006 after an election win. Israel and Hamas have fought many wars, but tensions have never subsided. 

A sudden escalation of the issue began on October 7, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel, claiming over 1400 lives, mostly civilian, and taking 230 hostages. In retaliation, the Israeli Prime Minister declared war and stated that Hamas would “pay an unprecedented price”. On November 6, The Palestinian Health Ministry said that Israel’s airstrikes have killed more than 10,000 people in Gaza, including over 4000 children. A report was also published detailing the names and ID numbers of every person killed, a day after US President Joe Biden questioned the death toll. 

The world is divided over the topic of Israel’s right to defend itself. It is important to recognize and grieve the effects of Hamas’s actions, and it is also necessary to note that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian cause. The increasing Israeli occupation of Palestine has never been justified, and neither was ever legally sanctioned by the United Nations. From its position of power, Israel has been controlling food, water, electricity, and the free movement of the people in Gaza since 2007 and is currently causing harm to life by having disrupted all of that since the events of October 7. In addition to that, with the enormous backing and financial aid that it receives from the USA, an undeniable power imbalance exists between the two regions that Israel has exploited for decades and is continuing to. Targeted bombings and air strikes in schools, hospitals, and residential buildings have made it clear that the continuous and purposeful killing of civilians is taking place. In discussions all over the world, this is being called a “textbook case of genocide”. 

On October 13, Israel had ordered over 1 million Gazans to evacuate to the southern part of the territory as targeted attacks on Hamas lay ahead. The UN stated that suddenly evacuating about half the population would have devastating humanitarian consequences.

Protecting civilians does not mean ordering one million to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no water, no medicine, no fuel, and then continue to bomb the south itself.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

Moreover, due to how Israel has handled refugee needs in the past, many Palestinians feared they would not be able to return and would be gradually displaced to Egypt’s Sinai, which is near Gaza’s south. The United Nations Human Rights Watch has said that Israel’s siege of Gaza and its evacuation order could lead to the forcible transfer of civilians and be in breach of international law. This is a recurring theme in Israel’s occupation of Palestine, as the refusal to withdraw from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, as well as the setting up of establishments in those territories, have been condemned and labelled flagrant violations of international law.   

To add to the alarming death tolls, there is an extreme shortage of electricity and medicine, and almost half of the hospitals in Gaza are no longer functioning and others are getting bombed. The UNRWA stated that it had to significantly reduce its humanitarian operations because fuel had run-out and the delivery of more had been restricted by Israel in fear of its misuse by Hamas. The UNWFP has said that ‘insane bureaucracy’ has slowed down the flow of aid, as only about 12 lorries carrying food and water are crossing into Gaza per day. This number was 500 before the war began. Moreover, telecommunication has been destroyed by the bombing, making it harder for aid to reach the right places in time. The current humanitarian situation in Gaza, therefore, remains dire.

There is no doubt that discussions and opinions should leave room for nuance; however, it should not be difficult to stand for humanitarian rights when needed most. The US, Israel’s major ally, having provided billions in military and economic aid, along with the EU, has condemned the actions of Hamas. Russia and China have not done the same and have stated neutrality. Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, is a supporter of Hamas and has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces.

The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas and demanding aid access to Gaza. 120 countries voted in favour, 14 voted against (including Israel and the USA) and 45 others abstained. We are yet to see what this step will do for the suffering people of Palestine, but in any case, history will remember. 

Read also: Stop Genocide in Palestine- Sfi Protests at Embassy of Israel 

Featured image source: World Peace Tracts 

Arshiya Pathania

[email protected] 

In a recurring move by the University, a whopping twelve-fold fee hike for the English PhD programme this time has left both students and teachers enraged and aghast.

The University of Delhi’s English Department recently announced the increased fees for their PhD programme. The fee has escalated from Rs. 1,932 last year to Rs. 23,968 currently, causing shocked reactions from several groups of teachers and students.

There have been stern critics against the university’s move, with teacher and student organisations blaming the new National Education Policy as a tool to ‘privatise’ and ‘commercialise’ education.

Earlier implementation of NEP led to a 400% fee hike in Allahabad University and 100% in BHU, and the same has now happened in Delhi University.

Anjali, DU Secretary of the All India Students’ Association (AISA)

The Democratic Teachers’ Front formally protested against the fee hike via a letter addressed to Vice Chancellor Yogesh Singh.

Comparisons of such fee hikes are also being done with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after the institution borrowed from the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).

This has led the DU wing of the All India Students’ Association to call for investigations into the role of HEFA behind student fee hikes.

The role of HEFA has to be examined, in which government grants for universities are being replaced by loans, which also have the component of interest. Delhi University has already procured loans worth Rs. 1800 crore, which will be extracted along with interest from student’s pockets. This is a strategic attempt by both the government and the administration to push out the marginalized sections (dalits, adivasis, women, and gender minorities) out of education.

Anjali on AISA’s stance on HEFA.

The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) also criticised the fee hike, stating that it would hinder ‘access to quality education.’ They also declared that this fee hike is a ‘blatant attack on publicly funded institutions’ and ‘exacerbates financial stress on students and their families.’ Lastly, they also claim that the administration did not allow the PhD students enough time to submit their fees and were asked to pay the amount through a ‘one-day deadline’.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad also opposed the increase in fees and highlighted the ‘lack of representation’ in central universities.

Despite such protests and opposition, the University administration is yet to make a formal public comment regarding such massive developments.

Read More: DU Sees Rise in Applications After Introduction of 5-Year Law Courses

Featured Image Credits: Frontlist

Priyanka Mukherjee

[email protected]

Students and activists took part in the demonstration to support the victims of the horrific war crimes committed in Gaza, which included the loss of lives of thousands of innocent children. 

On October 23, 2023, a protest organized by the Students’ Federation of India in Delhi took place at the Embassy of Israel in New Delhi. This protest was an expression of solidarity with Palestine and a strong plea to stop the ongoing violence committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. Around 2 p.m. on October 23rd, a large gathering of supporters, including social activists and students from various universities and student organizations across Delhi, assembled near the Khan Market Metro station. Together, they initiated a united march towards the Embassy of Israel.

Upon reaching their destination, the protesters were met with a substantial police force that prevented them from advancing further. The authorities detained the demonstrators, leading to a temporary halt to their protest. An hour later, a second group of students, holding placards in support of Palestine and chanting slogans, initiated another march towards the embassy. They, too, were soon detained by the police forces.

The backdrop to this protest is the ongoing conflict in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the tragic loss of over 5,000 lives over two weeks. The history of the Israel-Palestine conflict is marked by turbulence and violence. As the attacks persist, people worldwide stand united in their call for an end to the loss of innocent lives and the provision of essential services to the people of Gaza through humanitarian aid.

Our conversations with the protestors helped us get a clear view of their motivations and perspectives on the issue. A student from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who joined the protest explained that their objective was to oppose all forms of violence in Gaza and urge the governments to support the Palestinian cause. He emphasized that the march towards the Embassy was a means to convey their message to the media, the general public, and ultimately the government.

What is happening in one part of the world cannot leave us unaffected or detached. It is not right to assume that India and its citizens will remain untouched by the consequences of this conflict.

– One of the supporters present at the march.

The supporters stressed their point by saying,

Humari sankhya kam ho sakti hai, par humari awaaz buland hai

(Our numbers may be small, but our voices are powerful.)

Many protesters were also against police actions and the detention of their fellow participants. They requested the administration to respect their right to peaceful protest. Social activists present at the event underlined the historical importance of mass protests in India’s struggle for independence. They argued that the administration should not restrict their freedom to express their views.

The demonstrators also stressed that the world must not remain silent in the face of such a grave humanitarian crisis. They highlighted the need to stand in support of the oppressed and the innocent in Gaza, as one day India might require the international community’s support in times of crisis, just as the civilians of Gaza do now. The protestors’ believed in the importance of global solidarity and the responsibility of nations to support one another in the face of injustice and conflict.

Read Also – https://dubeat.com/2019/12/01/why-are-israelis-moving-into-a-conflict-zone/

Image Credits – Anshika Sharma for DU Beat

By DU Beat

The cultural context in India undeniably aggravates women’s mental health concerns, emphasizing the need for gender-specific mental healthcare.

There’s no doubt about the fact that the world has witnessed significant advancements in healthcare and societal norms over the past century. However, hushed conversations around mental health persist, especially when it comes to women. It was not very long ago that women in the Western world were put through procedures as invasive and barbaric as lobotomies under the guise of mental health treatment. While methods have definitely evolved, the stigma surrounding women’s mental health and the lack of adequate care are problems that still very much endure.

It is widely accepted in medicine that gender is a key determinant of mental health, as there are differences in the needs and experiences of people of different genders. Biological differences (in addition to social factors) keep women more vulnerable than men to mental health disorders. Estrogen and progesterone make women more susceptible to developing fear and anxiety as they regulate mood and cognition. Reproductive health and pregnancy-related mental illnesses also contribute to the disproportion. However, in India specifically, another reason for the need for gender-specific care is realized when we look at the intensity of how social factors determine women’s mental health in India.

The patriarchy is not unique to our country, but the ways in which it is upheld today are strikingly more severe than most. The preference for the male child and subsequent lower educational status of women, stricter standards for behaviour, early marriage, and the subservient role in the marriage household are all common parts of the lifestyle of an average Indian woman. These factors, coupled with the alarming rates of domestic violence, contribute to the occurrence and treatment of mental health disorders among Indian women.

As of October 2021, the majority of those facing mental health issues in India were women, but the obstacles associated with seeking assistance deterred them from doing so. Women in Indian society are expected to be the sole caretakers of not just the children in the family but also the adults. Even in ‘modern’ households where they might not exactly be expected to do so, women tend to assume responsibility for the same because such are the effects of deeply ingrained patriarchy. When women barely give up on such ‘duties’ while physically sick, it’s easy to understand why a study mentioned that they are apprehensive to seek mental health care in fear of being rendered useless and becoming a burden to their families. In fact, that is exactly how society perceives women with serious mental health struggles, as a study showed that such women are twice as likely to experience physical and sexual abuse as the general female population in India.

It is thus very evident that gender-specific mental health care is an imperative in India, and although we’ve seen notable progress in the past decade, it unfortunately remains accessible primarily to a privileged demographic within the metropolitan cities. The path towards extending this care to all of India will require elevating societal awareness, encouraging open dialogue, and advocating for reforms in healthcare policy. It is a long road, but one that needs to commence because women’s mental health is not some marginal concern but an integral component of society’s well-being.

Read also: Who Protects Our ‘Safe’ Spaces?

Featured image credits: ABP Live

Arshiya Pathania

[email protected]

The following piece seeks to present yet another easily dismissive view (read rant) of a Muslim in India. All names, people and incidents mentioned are NOT fictitious. Resemblance to any past event of dictatorship and fascism is NOT AT ALL coincidental. Any attempt to debase the piece as “anti-national” comes from a shrouded majoritarian privilege.

Few days back while I was flipping through the memories laden pages of my eleventh standard Political Science NCERT textbook revelling on the old nostalgia, I chanced upon Faiz Ahmed Faiz lines in one of the cartoons.

Hum to thahre ajnabi kitni mulakato ke baad

Khoon ke dhabbe dhulenge kitni barsaaton ke baad

(We remain strangers even after so many meetings

Blood stains remain even after so many rains.)

Indeed, the ongoing insurgency of our once dear democracy in the hands of the incumbent government gave new meanings to these lines. It is a known fact that the constant othering of the Muslims and other minorities has been normalised and conveniently subsumed in the state apparatus in the recent years. This manufacturing of hatred by the ruling party is certainly not a new phenomenon, but the extent to which it is practiced is certainly something that cannot be easily dismissed. The dehumanisation and humiliation experienced by certain sections of the people, especially religious minorities, cannot be easily language-d.

An imam stabbed and shot to death in a mosque that was burnt to the ground. A young doctor, walking home, set upon by an armed mob who thrashed and molested her. A teacher asked a kid to slap his classmate. An MP ridiculing another MP “terrorist” and hurling dehumanising slurs in the Indian Parliament. The incidents which took place in India over the last few months (and are increasingly a common sight), are seemingly unconnected, yet the victims were united by a common factor: they are all Muslims.

“In the early days of my college, in a class of 80+ students, my friend who was sitting beside me and I were made to stand up, our identities assumed because we were wearing hijab and asked by one of our senior professor, in a very condescending tone, if we ever faced discrimination in India,”

-a second year student of Delhi University.

A socially identifiable Muslim that fits in the perfect imagination of a stereotypical archetype is often seen at odds with the usual surroundings–worthy of suspicion, stares and second looks. In times of blatant and unapologetic Hindutva outfit of the government, practicing religion in public has become an increasingly dangerous exercise. A burkha donned lady is more carefully and suspiciously frisked at the metro station so does a cap wearing long bearded Muslim is exoticised and immediately seen as out of the place. Last month, when the violence against Muslims broke down in several parts of the country, I remember my father telling me that he has removed the hanging from his car’s rear-view mirror that had the verses of Qur’an written on it, as a step towards “precaution”. Muslim families are increasingly moving towards, what they consider, “religious neutral” names like Alia, Amir, Ayesha etc. to avoid being outrightly identified as Muslims. People avoid putting nameplates on their front doors for the fear of becoming targets of Hindutva outfits in the next communal violence. In such a political environment of Right-wing extremism, the public practice of religion for the minorities is becoming difficult day by day.

Another second year student who wishes to remain anonymous expressed her grief,

“I see way too many people than I’d like, defending violence against Muslims by turning the table and just blaming the Muslims for committing the violence themselves. Most of the times it’s my acquaintances or even friends; it makes me wonder how they actually perceive me.”

Being an ordinary Muslim in India involves waking up to at least one Islamophobic news and then for the rest of the day dissimulating your own identity for the fear of being identified. After a point our identities are just subsumed in the mere everydayness of these stories of discrimination and violence. The identity of a Muslim is battered against the social realities of the present systemic state oppression and is mutilated every single day–the vilified hypersexual outlook of Muslims that feed into the insecurity of the hyper-masculine Hindutva narrative of the nationalist discourse. The ritualistic nature of endless and unresponsive humiliation has led to conscious effort to not socially “appear as Muslims”; running away from our own identities. Will an ‘Indian Muslim’ continue to be an oxymoron? How long will our words of endearment—ammi, abbu, bhaijan, aapa will be misappropriated to give perverse connotations? How long our citizenship questioned, our identities thwarted, our cultures denigrated and our existence diminished? Maybe in the end of the day, what remains is the tiredness and a helpless resignation when we are questioned and made to question ourselves—who are we?

Read Also: Islamophobia in Delhi University’s Student Community: A myth or Reality?

Image credit: The Indian Express 

Samra Iqbal

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Against the background of an ongoing onslaught on the University’s gender-minority colleges, we seek to explore what it means to exist in DU’s so-called ‘safe spaces’ and why any threat to their sanctity must be dealt with the gravity of an ‘invasion’.

Introducing yourself as the student of a women’s college is an act that elicits a wide range of responses. From blatant objectification of yourself and your peers as ‘dream girlfriend material’ to feigned concerns about how the institutional absence of men is hindering your ‘holistic’ development, it is evident that gender-minority spaces are no safe haven from patriarchy. If anything, patriarchy operates in covert ways within and outside the walls of these institutions.

Beyond sexist stereotyping and disparaging remarks, it manifests as the very real and physical threat of gender-based violence, of which these students often become primary targets. As our campus witnesses a rise in public displays of male entitlement and territorial chauvinism, it is imperative that we learn to contextualise these incidents and understand that no violation of a safe space happens in isolation. (2nd last)

Before delving into the subject of gender-minority spaces and what threatens them, it is crucial to understand what these spaces symbolise for their students in the first place. The very need for exclusive spaces for women and gender minorities points to a history of sexual violence that has endangered these groups for simply existing in public. Delhi itself hosts the track record of being one of the most unsafe metropolitan cities for women in the country, with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recording 14,277 registered cases of crimes against women in the Union Territory in 2021 alone. The fear of violence is thus statistically backed up and deeply embedded in the collective psyche of gender-minority groups, who are forced to live much of their lives on ‘survival mode’. (last)

In the midst of an overwhelming threat to life and “autonomy, gender-minority spaces emerge as a cocoon of safety for historically marginalised groups. Hence, Priya Agrawal, a student of the Indraprastha College for Women (IPCW), Delhi University’s (DU) oldest women’s college established in 1924, comments,

There is a reason why our parents and relatives feel very comfortable with the fact that their daughter is in an all-girls’ college. They feel that she’ll be safe there.

In fact, this dichotomy between unsafe public spaces and the safe space of gender-minority colleges is epitomised by the daily experience of commuting to the latter. Any student of these institutions is all too familiar with the sense of relief that rushes over you as soon as you step inside your college gates and are no longer bound to check the length of your skirt or feel the gaze of a man staring down your chest. As Sobhana, a student of Miranda House, relates,

The journey from my house in Vijayanagar to the Miranda House campus, which is no longer than 3 minutes by rickshaw or 10 if you walk, gives me more trauma and catcalls than the entire day I spend on campus.

It is apparent why, despite the conflictual nature of the inner workings of these colleges, they hold sanctity as a form of ‘private space in public’ universities (to borrow author Shelly Tara’s idiom, who used it originally in the context of women-only coaches on the Delhi Metro).

All of this is not to paint gender-minority colleges as infallible institutions above any and all forms of discrimination. Caste, class, religion, queerness, and other social cleavages dictate the inner anatomy of these institutions, and indeed, the very notion of a ‘safe space’ comes to be contested in the face of social hierarchies and exclusionary cliques. Any sense of safety is accorded on the basis of privilege and it is crucial that we keep this intersectional standpoint at the back of our minds while examining the remainder of this issue.

So, it is not the case that DU’s gender-minority colleges represent some sort of progressive, feminist utopia, but more so that they unite students under the banner of shared experience and solidarity against patriarchal injustice. Payal Krishnan, an LSR alumna from the batch of 1996, says,

Even in a women’s institution, you would routinely face instances of internalised misogyny and homophobia, and it takes time and dedicated efforts to shatter. Just stepping inside a women’s institution doesn’t automatically make you a certain way. But luckily, we always had people come out in support of individuals and communities which were discriminated against, and that unwavering support and dedication towards creating a safe space is what mattered.

Despite the numerous problems that permeate such institutions, she speaks of a “culture of cooperation, respect, and holistic growth” and concludes, “There is power in the collective.” This power—this collective front put up against the omnipresent violence of gender norms—is what poses an existential threat to patriarchy. While it is not within the scope of this article to delve into the rich history of these colleges, it is true that dominant society has always felt a sense of unease in the presence of such highly-educated and liberated women. Whether it be the 1990s matrimonial ads declaring ‘Girls from JNU, LSR or Miranda House need not apply’ or the aforementioned judgemental remarks, the autonomy of gender-minority spaces has always existed as an open challenge to the hetero-patriarchal foundations of our society.

Perhaps it is this challenge, this daring not to conform, that has resulted in the repeated targeting of these spaces and attempts to infringe upon their boundaries. Case in point is that of the recent DUSU election campaigning rallies that have barged into women-only campuses, but also of much earlier incidents, such as the 2020 Gargi College fest, the 2022 Miranda House Diwali mela, and the 2023 IPCW fest. It is evident that these are not isolated incidents but rather a pattern of invasions that legitimises male entitlement to spaces clearly not meant for them. Even relatively normalised behaviours, such as men deliberately hanging around outside women’s college gates, are not to be dismissed either, since they form the root of this very patriarchal problem of ‘space and who occupies it’.

The cases of women’s college fests being invaded by men are some of the most publicized events within this scenario. These incidents, which become grounds for rampant sexual harassment in the form of catcalling, groping, and unwanted advances, and actively put the students’ safety at risk, have been meticulously covered by national media houses as well. What is often left out of the conversation, however, is the aftermath of such events. Sharing her traumatic experience during the IPCW fest invasion and how that permanently changed her perception of the college environment, one student relates,

The purity of the place was gone for me. I did not go to college for 1-2 weeks straight because there were many protests, but also because I didn’t feel like it. Many of my friends didn’t go either. Even months after, as soon as we’d enter, we’d get flashbacks from that night.

It should be made clear then that men climbing walls and trying to barge into gender-minority spaces are not a case of them doing just that. These are incidents that reinstate the fear of violence and re-establish the norm of male proprietorship over women and gender minorities. They serve as a painful reminder to the latter that no space that they construct with love and care for themselves is truly theirs forever. It is forever dangling under the threat of patriarchal violence and could be overcome, at any moment, by the ever-destructive male ego. As the above-quoted IPCW student went on to share,

Even after all this went down, people still don’t realise that this was not about a college having a concert, where people simply climbed the walls and chaos and stampede happened. No, it’s not about that. It’s about men trying to enter the space of women, trying to harass us in our own spaces, and telling us, ‘We can come here too; what will you do about it? Your administration is not going to help you out either.

Indeed, it is only within this context that one can begin to understand the visceral reaction of gender-minority students against their spaces being invaded. Recently, when the political rallies for the DUSU 2023 elections barged into Aditi Mahavidyalya and Miranda House, students of both colleges were quick to label these as ‘invasions’ and expressed dissent against them. Unfortunately, they were dismissed under the claim that such hooliganism is just ‘part and parcel’ of the DUSU election fever. Such statements, that ring too close to the common adage of ‘boys will be boys’, fundamentally fail to understand the sanctity that safe spaces hold for gender minorities and the reason why they might get so protective about them.

It is no far-fetched remark to also suggest that the way elections season has panned out over the past month in DU has been nothing but a display of power under patriarchy. Yes, money and muscle power reign supreme in this University’s (and by large, the country’s) electoral politics, but must we be so quick to accept that as the norm, as students and conscious voters? Must we allow our gender-minority spaces to be violated for the sake of more noise and pamphlet-litter? Of course, one also wonders why it is always the same political outfits, like ABVP and NSUI, that choose to engage in this chauvinist brand of student politics. Perhaps, someone will tell us to quietly accept that just as boys will be boys, ABVP and NSUI too will be ABVP and NSUI.

Ultimately, what matters, however, is the safety of our spaces. One of the most disheartening outcomes is always the immediate reaction of administrative authorities, who seem quicker to police the gender-minority students than take action against the perpetrators. Whether it be barbed wire being put up on college walls or student protestors being detained before the men who invaded IPCW, the question of who will protect our safe spaces remains unanswered.

Read also: The Invasion of IPCW – A Student’s Account

Featured Image Credits: Anshika for DU Beat

Sanika Singh
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