On 12th September, while the University of Delhi (DU) was getting ready to elect their new Students’ Union, the Shri Ram Memorial Girls’ Hostel was trespassed into by a stranger who went on to steal money and debit cards from the rooms.
The incident came into light when a first-year student realised that her debit card had gone missing. Subsequently, she received messages informing her that an amount of INR 50,000 had already been withdrawn from her account. In addition to this, a cash amount of INR 2000 was missing from her room and her roommate also lost an amount of INR 1000. A resident from another room also reported her debit card to be missing.
When the residents realised the gravity of the theft, the warden was approached on the 12th itself for permission to access the CCTV footage. However, neither the warden nor the assistant warden approached the students until two days after the theft on 14th September.
The footage showed a stranger entering the hostel at 1:40 p.m. which falls within the lunch hour for the residents. The stranger is said to have confidently walked past the guard stationed at the gate and into the hostel. They then checked every room on the ground floor of the hostel and finally, on finding an empty room, went in and stole students’ belongings. A few students noticed the stranger in the hallway but didn’t find cause to worry as they did not seem lost. They assumed it was a relative of the warden or someone who was let in with permission due to their confidence.
A student also remembers walking into the washroom to find the stranger there. They behaved very casually and mentioned that they would be out in a minute. The stranger then walked upstairs to the first floor and followed the same process of entering all the rooms, possibly looking for something else to steal. Finally, only when the stranger was leaving the hostel did the guard notice them. When questioned by the guard, the stranger quickly ran out of the gate. The guard did not follow the stranger despite the incriminating run and did not make any effort to alert the students or the warden’s office of what he had seen.
Although the stranger was dressed as a woman, the students were subsequently informed that the stranger had previously allegedly entered the college three times. A worker in the college canteen mentioned that he had noticed a similar-looking man.
On viewing the footage, a third-year student claims to have seen the stranger enter the college premises with a campaigning group for the Delhi University Students’ Union elections.
Reaction of the authorities:
The guard on duty, when confronted regarding the incident, apologised and mentioned that he was asleep when the stranger entered the hostel. It is also important to mention that the two male guards appointed as security in the hostel do not belong to a formal security service.
When the local guardian of the aggrieved student approached the warden’s office, he was informed that the college would file a First Information Report (FIR) on Monday, four days after the theft. The Principal also assured the students’ parents that required actions would be taken. The only step taken to reassure the students regarding their safety was a meeting where the warden reminded the students to be responsible for their belongings. She also requested the third-year students to pacify the juniors and try to contain their fear related to the incident. “This was an accident. It’s a simple matter, no need to worry,” she added.
The incident has not been reported to a higher authority and no immediate changes have been pursued to make the hostel safer for the female students.
Impending fear among the students
The ease with which a complete stranger could enter their private space has shocked all of the residents of the hostel. There is a growing concern that the security currently present is not effective enough. “It is very shocking to acknowledge the fact that a college hostel with two security filters witnessed such an incident. The hostel is supposed to be one of the safest and most secure places in the campus and most of us are afraid to roam around freely in this building now,” a senior student said. The students are additionally very disheartened with the reaction of the hostel authorities, “Safety for the girls here is just limited to locking us within the hostel at 8:30 p.m. Rest anything else is considered to be an “accident” or an “issue being created unnecessarily.” If this is the condition of the hyped premium hostel of an equally hyped institute then I dread the future of women safety.”
The students have since been organising meetings within themselves so they can suggest constructive measures for their safety to the administration. However, they doubt whether the administration will take this matter seriously.
The SRCC Girls Hostel has been plagued with problems and arbitrary decision making since the beginning of the year. To accommodate the increase of student intake due to the Economically Weaker Section quota, the college turned their hostel dining hall into two classrooms without providing them with another alternative. The girls temporarily make use of one of the rooms for meals but due to lack of space, it gets extremely crowded and some of them do not get a seat during the meals. The administration has not specified when they intend to make an eating space available for the residents.
This absolute ignorance on the part of the administration is grossly unjustified. The girls hostel of SRCC is deeply problematic, housing half the number of students as compared to the boys hostel. I’m addition to this, students lack proper dining facilities. As if this weren’t enough, they now have to worry about their safety living inside the campus. The purpose of such a hostel then comes to question as it fails to provide all of the necessary services.
Feature Image Credits: Shri Ram College of Commerce