‘Hostel humaara haq hai, political ‘bully’ ka bakra nahi!’
A protest was called by Pinjra Tod, an autonomous women’s movement operating in the Delhi University (DU). The protest titled ‘University is our Right, Not a Tool for Blackmail’ was held on the 2nd of August 2017, outside the DU Proctor’s office. This came in response to the incidents that had transpired in the Ambedkar Ganguly Hostel for Women.
An incident wherein a girl’s parents were called by the warden to complain about her ‘misdemeanours,’ had sparked off a series of protests within Ambedkar Ganguly Hostel which is a ‘self-sustained’ hostel catering to the needs of Master’s students from Delhi School of Economics (DSE) and ST/SC/PwD women of the Delhi University. A year of repeated attempts at negotiating the terms in which the administration responds to questions of ‘safety and security’ of women by infantilising them, had failed.
A year on, the hostel warden is said to have arbitrarily and unilaterally changed the entry time into the hostel from 10pm to 9pm, this at a time when we’re struggling to do away with rules that seek to securitise the bodies of women in the name of providing security! The students found themselves in a position of precocity where making the demand for being treated as adult citizens came at the cost of potential loss of hostel accommodation.
we’re struggling to do away with rules that seek to securitise the bodies of women in the name of providing security!
The new rule came out without consulting the elected Student Welfare Association (SWA) at a time of the year when most women were either appearing to seek admission or appearing to seek re-admission in the hostel. This implies that anyone who would raise a voice against the dictator would be more likely to lose the hostel seat since they were standing in ‘opposition’ to the authorities’ dictum.
Thus the women students along with Pinjra Tod decided to hold a protest demonstration, to highlight the arbitrary change in rules.
It was only when this news leaked out in the public domain and it was decided that a protest demonstration would take place against it, that the warden strategically called for an ’emergency’ meeting, reassuring that the mandate be immediately taken down from the notice board. While the announcement of the protest triggered a reactionary response, it has opened up the possibility for an internal dialogue with the warden, who had displayed a lack of will to engage before the matter became public knowledge. Previously, all internal attempts at seeking a resolve were snubbed.
The women from across colleges such as St Stephens, Lady Shri Ram College, and Delhi School of Economics came together to resist the growing ‘trend’ of the punishment of people fighting for their rights by the administration which resorts to denying hostel seats to those speaking truth to power, by exercising its ‘discretionary rights.’ Since these discretionary rights are largely used against those the hostel authorities seek to provide security to, many protested, ‘Jhooti Suraksha Ki Khol De Pol, Pinjra Tod.’ (Smash the tutelages of false security!)
During the protest, many narratives of women inhabiting the University came through. One protester recounted the experience of her friend who was subjected to excessive moral policing by the authorities over her choice of clothes – the repeated harassment led to the eventual ‘voluntary’ revoking of her admission from the University. It was then brought to the fore that there are myriad ways in which the University space is unfriendly towards women as they are constantly made to feel patronised in the administration and the State’s approach towards ‘security.’
The protesters reiterated that the university women be seen as adult citizens and not bodies that are open to securitisation for the upkeep of a largely misplaced notion of ‘security.’ Add to this, there is shrinking space for dissent with the threat of losing the hostel seat hanging as a sword above their heads. This is making it increasingly difficult, if not completely impossible, for women to register their protest. The protesting women also invalidated the baseless affidavits that they are made to sign at the time of admission that suspend their right to stage protest! That essentially makes for a trade-off between one’s liberty and one’s security. Posed in such a way, the administration is geared towards making security and freedom as mutually exclusive categories, with no mention of autonomy.
the administration is making security and freedom mutually exclusive categories, with no mention of autonomy.
The day’s protest finally led to the fixing of a meeting between Pinjra Tod and the Proctor, which is due to take place on the 12th of August.
All photos taken by FII Staff Reporter and from Pinjra Tod’s Facebook page.