Posted by Abhimanyu
The ‘Ladies Hostel’ of National Institute of Technology (NIT), Calicut had issued a now revoked circular restricting the movement of “girl found along with boy student”[sic] in Residential Campus (a part of campus containing the faculty quarters and ladies hostels which is separated from the main campus by state highway) of NIT Calicut, and warning disciplinary action against the female student.
WARNING NOTICE: Inmates of Ladies Hostel and Mega ladies hostel are strictly instructed not to roam with boy students inside the residential campus. We get a lot of complaints in this regard. If any girl found along with boy student inside residential campus, severe action will be taken against her including suspension and expulsion from hostel.
This circular was issued inside the Ladies Hostel (LH) and signed by a warden of the Ladies Hostel, no similar circular was seen addressed to the boys in any of the Mens Hostels.
The Student Affairs Council of NIT Calicut took this up with the administration including the Chief Warden (who is in charge of all hostels) and they have now revoked the circular.
The explanation given that this was issued independently by the LH Warden (hence only aimed at women) without cognizance of the full administration, and responding to a complaint by a faculty that a group of students had caused disturbance in front of their quarters, in the residential campus. The administration further explained that the notice did not come out as intended, and aim was to restrict any groups of students causing disturbance in the residential campus. However it is unsure how much of the jump from “a group of students” to “girl roaming with a boy” can be attributed to a wording mishap. An official written clarification is awaited from the administration.
This policy however follows the generally regressive attitude the campus has taken when it comes to restrictions on the female students.
NIT Calicut has and continue to have a curfew for female students alone (men have a curfew for a certain period in the first year on account of ragging prevention), that restricts them to ladies hostels after 7PM (briefly extend and brought back) and also a daily roll call of female students was present when I was a student there (2007–11). The reason being given for the restriction is that since there is a state highway cutting across the campus, full security cannot be ensured. The 7PM curfew has also been cited as reason against female students heading extracurricular associations, since most of the work happens after campus timings of 5PM. Department associations have rarely had female heads, however in the time period I was there or even after that no extracurricular association has had a female head, neither the festival councils, and even the cabinet seats on the Student Affairs Council are informally gender and even region divided.
This point however has been specifically address by UGC/AICTE and they have mentioned, “concern for the safety of women students must not be cited to impose discriminatory rules for women in the hostels as compared to male students”. I have also studied at IIT Kanpur where there were far fewer restrictions, and none that I remember being gender-biased, so it definitely is possible.
There are also unwritten rules regarding ‘girl boy conduct’ within the camps. Some of the faculty at NIT Calicut do their own moral policing, which involves not allowing women and men to sit together, citing it will be distracting, advising female students against having relationships in campus, and calling parents of the female students if suspected to be in a relationship.
Campus security also has warned couples sitting together that they are not allowed to do so after 6PM because it will “cause a bad name to college“.
The support for movements like Pinjra Tod have been sporadic and a majority of the women feel they don’t want to get into trouble for supporting such movements. However, the brief extension of curfew mentioned earlier was because of one such protest.
In short, this notice and revoking has to be seen in context of the general environment of restrictions imposed upon female students within campuses all over India, and we have to work towards ensuring a campus and administration that is non discriminatory and values freedom of girls, and actively works to ensure more of it.
Abhimanyu M A was a student in Computer Science from 2007-11 at NIT Calicut. This piece has been written with inputs from students and alumnis currently on campus.