Virgin Tree


After the controversy following the “V-Day Puja”, Women and Gender cells from across the University have risen to support the struggle of students at Hindu College against the sexist tradition, by observing a protest at the College on 17th February 2020.

 On 17th February 2020, Hindu College observed a demonstration against the College’s annual ‘V-Day Puja’ , annually celebrated on the Valentine’s Day, and the unsuccessful executional ban over this year’s annual puja. Despite previous negotiations amongst the Student body and the Administration, deciding an unanimous ban over the event for this year, it was still observed by the Boys’ Hostel Union on 14th February 2020.

Students claim that ABVP’s  men were allegedly involved amongst the mob that ignored the administration’s denial of permission and continued to observe the tradition.  A demonstration was therefore observed against the incident at 1 pm outside the college. However, ABVP has denied all claims of involvement, and have called the rumours of their involvement as criminal defamation.

Ankitaa Biswas, President, ABVP Hindu College told DU Beat, “ABVP-Hindu College was not involved in any act of hooliganism that happened on 14 February,2020 during the V-tree function within the college premises. Neither ABVP, nor any ABVP activist partook in the impugned act of campus commotion. All allegations pertinent to ABVP’s involvement in a bevy of mischievous acts ranging from provocative poster-making to incendiary sloganeering are unsubstantiated and appear contrived to sully the organization’s good name and reputation. Such unfounded assertions constitute criminal defamation.”

She further added, “According to several eyewitnesses, the sequence of events on that fateful day stands in stark contrast to the ridiculous claims being made by ABVP’s ideological adversaries. Saboteurs belonging to SFI, AISA and Pinjratod trespassed into the Hindu College, misbehaved with the students, and made extensive efforts to vitiate the atmosphere of peace and harmony on the campus.”

The Administration of Hindu College has been in question regarding the ‘V-Day Puja’ for years, with people claiming the tradition to be discriminatory, patriarchal, Brahmanical, and a blatant display of toxic masculinity and sidebars for female dignity. After the condemnation of the tradition gaining momentum, the students were denied permission by the Administration to observe the Puja. Yet the puja was still observed on 14thFebruary, with no retaliation from the administration and allegations of ABVP hooligans’ involvement in the mob that disregarded the official orders.

“The misogynistic acts besides V-Tree and violence on women and protestors on Valentine’s Day inside the College premises. We condemn such misogynistic and violent acts, stand in solidarity with the victims and demand immediate disciplinary actions against the harassers and who violated the decision which was declared the Principal in the Students-Admin meeting. The incident that happened at Gargi College shook us all and compelled us to think are University Spaces really safe for women? Are University Spaces really inclusive? This sorts of mobs that often enter College and University spaces to wreak havoc that we also noticed in JNU. All of us have to fight against the mob constitutionally and peacefully,” All India Queer Association (AIQA) stated.

Various Women and Gender Cells from across the University have risen up to provide support and stand in solidarity with the women students of Hindu College, namely the Women Development Cell of Miranda House, Lady Sri Ram College, Sri Venkateswara College, as well as Gender Forum of Ramjas College, The Gender Studies Cell of St. Stephen’s College, IP Student’s Collective, and the Delhi School of Journalism.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Shreya Juyal

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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’.

The hostel union modified the ceremony by using new posters.
The hostel union modified the ceremony by using new posters.

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.

Police was present even at the night of Valentine's Day eve, when the first round of protests began.
Police was present even at the night of Valentine’s Day eve, when the first round of protests began.

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.

Student bodies like Pinjra Tod and SFI were a part of the protest.
Student bodies like Pinjra Tod and SFI were a part of the protest.

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, but despite 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.

The situation turned dangerous when some students tried grappling for one of the posters.
The situation turned dangerous when some students tried grappling for one of the posters.

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

Feature Image Credits: Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat

Jaishree Kumar
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Prateek Pankaj

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Worshipping the Virgin Tree at Hindu College has been a ritual for a long time now. However, this quirky tradition is scorned by the conservatives.

The Virgin Tree is the oldest member of Hindu College and has witnessed the Valentine’s Day celebrations, Puja of Damdami Mata, and the water-filled condoms hung from its branches. From Deepika Padukone to Disha Patani, famous Bollywood actresses have been treated as the Damdami Mata to be worshipped. The University of Delhi, apart from the excellence in academic performances, is also famous for the liberal multitude. This fun, amusing, and somewhat problematic tradition is also a way to spread awareness about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and the use of protection while sexual intercourse.

In the time of toning down of sex education and condom advertisement bans, keeping up with this fascinating culture of Hindu College seems difficult. Bajrang Dal has been in the headlines since a long time for chasing away couples who were seen in public. This time, they have targeted the practices of adorning the Virgin Tree of Hindu College and the Damdami Mata Puja.

Bajrang Dal has been planning to uproot the Virgin Tree, bringing an end to the “obscene” culture of the westernised populace. They intend to inculcate “Indian morales” in the students and prohibit the celebrations of Valentine’s Day altogether. According to the sources, they went to an extent to discuss this matter with the Vice Chancellor of DU, Yogesh K. Tyagi, and the Principal of Hindu College, Dr. Anju Srivastava. On the issue, a professor of Hindu College quoted, “Our students have enjoyed this liberty of campaigning and spreading awareness on AIDS. This has been a mirthful tradition with a purpose that must not be ended.”

When asked about this interference to a member of Bajrang Dal, he said, “We must not forget our values. What must be restricted to the bedroom, should never come about in the public, and that too among students. Studying in DU is prestigious, but students must never forget their role and indulge in such detestable practices.”

“The Students’ Union got involved much later in the issue,” said a student. Bajrang Dal members tried working with the “elders” first, and then include the students. The decision to fell the Virgin Tree is halfway taken. The final call is yet to be taken by the students. It is also feared that the felling of the tree will lead to protests and create chaos, hence the conclusion hasn’t been made yet. So, this year may be the last of the captivating practice in DU.

*Disclaimer: Bazinga is our weekly column of almost believable fake news. It is a humorous, light-hearted column that should only be appreciated and not accepted.


Feature Image Credits: Stories Feed
Radhika Boruah
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