The air of Delhi is smelling a fresh campaign named Pinjra Tod, launched by female students of Delhi, studying in different colleges in the city. Pinjra Tod as the name suggests is a mass campaign unravelled against discriminatory practices that continue to prevail in the colleges of Delhi against female students, especially in hostels. The situation of hostels of the University of Delhi is well exposed by a resident of SRCC Women’s hostel who comments,
“But in our girls hostel, we have to get our night-outs mailed/faxed by our parents about where we are going and when we’ll return back; we should also bring letters signed by them. Our in-timings changed to 8:00 p.m. a few weeks back. Because of stricter regulations and roll call fines (if you get late by two minutes you are fined 500).. I haven’t seen much in my two years of college life. And we are not allowed to go outside the hostel the whole day. But why lock up the gates?“
The emotional yet true statement by this student clearly reveals the patriarchal atmosphere of the so-called ‘modern’ city of our nation. Pinjra Tod urges the female students to break all the cages which bind them and their flight to the world, whether it is hostel timings or regressive policies catering only to the female students. It is a progressive step towards exposing the hypocrisy of society and dual character of our educational institutions. It is an attempt at reclaiming all the spaces of society women have been barred from accessing since ages, to be filled up by women of different colours.
The sexist and misogynist ideologies that lock women in homes, hostels, across the boundaries seem deeply entrenched in the minds of persons holding legitimate authority in the country. Delhi and other metropolitan cities, however are a comparatively free space, where at least women have opportunities to get their voices heard, where as in the rest of country, in remote villages and towns, women succumb themselves to the fire coming from the gas stove, or the acid, or the urine of big landlords, or forever-locked doors of homes and hostels. Recently, a shocking diktat was issued to the female students of Sri Sai Ram Engineering College, Chennai which includes refraining female student from carrying mobile phones, using Facebook and WhatsApp, talking to boys, wearing high heels, colouring hair, keeping hair loose, wearing leggings, tight jeans or tops, and even from using transparent or short dupattas! The notice speaks in a highly sexist and barbaric tone which reminds us of a black and white movie.
However, the story only begins here. The campaign has given an impetus to all the female students across the country to unmask the sexist practices they have to face everyday and Pinjra Tod has been receiving huge support from all sections of women, from different parts of the country. On one hand, the argument of ‘securing women’ because of a tremendous increase in the number of incidents of sexual violence has plateaued, while on the other, as a consequence of this campaign, the argument of letting women occupy their spaces themselves has gained nationwide attention.
Along with this attention, many challenges have knocked the doors of the activists involved in the struggle. As soon as the struggle was started, a member of ABVP (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad), a student wing of BJP, came to threaten the activists using derogatory and anti-women words. Although the activists have lodged an FIR against the individual and the outfit, the opposition is trying its best to create a misogynist atmosphere by tearing the posters of Pinjra Tod regularly. The university which is acclaimed as one of the best institute in research and higher studies, is parroting the chants assigned to them.
A similar situation can be observed in Punjab University, Chandigarh which stands on 8th rank all over India in research, however practices the same male chauvinist regulations. The hostel timings for female students are 9:30 p.m. and no outings are allowed after that. Punjab University Patiala, which has won eight consecutive Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) trophy in sports practice, has even more draconian laws which put an end to girls’ world at 6 p.m. This order of things comes from the sexist understanding that women provoke men and should be best protected (read caged) and have no role in advancing society. The contribution of women in the evolution of human society has been consciously undermined and further attempts are made on a daily basis to eliminate women from practical history and shift them to the category of mute spectators.
This is the picture of India’s universities which tend to set an example for the colleges. Talking about colleges, two girls’ colleges in Punjab (Patiala and Ludhiana) do not allow female students to leave the campus before 12 noon, once they have entered and never allows the hostlers to leave the campus, except when the parents themselves come to take the girls home! Such is the atmosphere of the world’s number one democracy which is busy in changing its display picture to support Digital India. But what does Digital India has for women who cannot even use a mobile phone?!
Still, it is only the material manifestation of locking up women physically, however, the ridiculous practice of caging their minds in patriarchal ideologies also continue massively since the day they are born. Not only the material atmosphere, but the academic atmosphere, ranging from choice of two stanza poems for nursery children, to the choice of colors, to the choice of toys, to the choice of topics for research, all tend to focus towards instilling male-chauvinist attitudes in women which teach them to consider themselves subjugated and dependent. It is this space which is being labelled as prison by women activists where there is restriction on territorial as well as intellectual mobility.
Pinjra Tod is a fight for being mobile, in walks and talks of life, in reality and dreams. In today’s patriarchal atmosphere, only if women take mass participation in campaigns and struggle against gender injustice, the spaces of society can be unleashed, to crush the anti-women ideologies at hand. Women must come together forward to put an end to ages long suppression and oppression.
Disclaimer: All images have been used from the campaign with due permission.