Posted by Yogita Suresh

Hindu College and St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, one of the country’s most renowned universities, are famous for being situated opposite each other and creating a heritage of art and knowledge and liberal and democratic spaces. Every year, hundreds of students from different classes, castes, and genders come to these colleges hoping to escape the nightmares of their hometowns and the burdens of belonging to an oppressed section of society in a painfully divided country.

Although the two colleges are perceived as institutions that do not hold women to a higher moral standard and are against the general moral policing of women through a ‘no dress code’ law, the colleges practice and endorse misogynistic practices in everyday life. Valentine’s Day is no exception. This day is a grand occasion for the colleges on Sudhir Bose Marg.

Hindu College boys’ hostel organises the ‘Virgin Tree Puja’ and the male students belonging to the Anga Wing of the hostel in St. Stephen’s take the Angha oath on the night of Valentine’s Day. Both these practices are not only highly sexist and male-centric but also carry forward age-old brahminical practices.

On the 14th of February, a tree in Hindu College (popularly known as the virgin tree) is decorated with condoms and a large poster of a woman (generally an actress, chosen by vote) who is known as the Damdami mai is placed on the tree for worship. A pandit (usually the winner of the college freshers) is made to conduct religious rites and distribute prasad . The myth formed around this is that anyone who prays to the Damadami mai will lose his virginity within the next 6 months.

These practices are not only highly sexist and male-centric but also carry forward age-old brahminical practices.

Last year, after much protest and dissent, the boys’ union decided to hang a poster of a man as well for equality of objectification. The move is highly tokenistic and the event continues to be a space for men only.

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The song sang during the aarati.

The event is a classic example of male aggression and sexuality. Men play the dhol, dance, take off their shirts and throw water on each other. One can compare this to what happens on certain festivals like Holi when all codes of conduct are suspended and women need to hide to feel safe or get molested in the crowd. The event only caters to upper caste male students and is an unhealthy representation of sexuality in a college which is otherwise anti-women, anti-minority, and against other sexualities like queer, transgender students etc. The concept of a puja is just another brahminical practice on campus that creates a singular idea of love and sexuality and leaves no space for alternatives and dissent.

Also read: Male Privilege And Entitlement In India – A 101 Explainer Piece

The administration’s indifference to this issue, despite several female students filing reports to the Internal Complaint’s Committee (ICC) and writing letters to the Principal saying that they feel unsafe during this event, simply shows the lack of interest on the administration to stop oppression on campus.

Women students of Delhi University are all geared up to dissent these practices this Valentine’s Day Day by upholding a truly equal, inclusive and consensual notion of love and sexuality.

Even if they do choose to interfere at some point, it is likely to take recourse to reactionary puritanism without addressing the issues being raised by the women students of these colleges. On the other 364 days of the year, these colleges lock women inside hostels after dark, moral police them and any form of sexual expression by women students are welcomed with shame and punishment. Pinjra Tod, SFI and Hindu College Progressive Front are organising a protest at 10 am outside the college gate on this Valentine’s Day.

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1/2: PUJA NAHI KARENGE! PITRISATTA AUR BRAHMANWAD SEH LADENGE! #pinjratod For generations now, Hindu college has taken 'pride' in its apparently very important 'tradition' of Virgin Tree Puja, celebrated with much fanfare on Valentines Day, where a special 'aarati' with elaborate puja gear and condoms. The ritual is conducted by the hostel fresher dressed as a brahmin pundit in janeu, in worship of the glorified Sex Goddess 'Damdami Mai' — a title inferred on a Bollywood actress 'chosen' by the entire boys hostel. Hundreds of men gather every year in an event charged with masculine aggression to chant the 'prayer' below to Damdami Mai whose blessings is supposed to lead them into finding a girlfriend within 6 weeks for the purpose of loosing their 'virginity'. जय दमदमी माता मैया जय दमदमी माता तुमको दिनभर देखूं – 2 रात भर सो नहीं पाता मैया जय दमदमी माता 36-24-36 ये तेरी काया मैया ये तेरी काया गानो पे ठुमका लगाता – 2 जय दमदमी माता जब तू TV पे आती तो हॉस्टल नचता मैया तो हॉस्टल नचता तुमको देखते देखते – 2 सुबह हो जाता मैया जय दमदमी माता दमदमी मैया की आरती जो कोई नर गावे 6 हफ़्ते के अंदर नई गर्लफ्रेंड पावे मैया जय दमदमी माता बोलो दमदमी मैया की जय !! Year after year, voices of dissent by women students against this atrocious 'tradition' that sexualizes and objectifies women as objects of male desire and reeks of brahminical ritual practices of caste pride, has been aggressively silenced. We, women have been told to learn how to take a 'joke', we have been warned against being so 'radical', against behaving like 'feminazis', we have been shamed for being 'conservative' and not understanding the rather noble cause of AID awareness and sex positivism that this tradition apparently seeks to promote. As the voices of protest kept growing in strength over the years against this sexist practice, the male organisers of the puja in a benevolent gesture of demonstrating 'equality' decided to generously 'allow' even women to select a male actor as their very own "Love Guru" for worship. . . . #feminism #iger #instadaily #instagood #instalike #good #instagram #like #hinducollege

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The Angha oath held in St. Stephen’s which is openly supported and endorsed by the warden of this hostel goes like this:

’We the people of ANGA, have solemnly resolved to constitute ANGA into a paramount egalitarian fellowship and to secure to all its members justice – social, sexual and sentimental liberty – to philander exclusively with men equality – of status and opportunity And to promote among them all misogyny Assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of ANGA. Hail ANGA!’’

This is just another practice that the administration has not been able to stop.

Also read: The Unhealthy Fixation With Virginity: Pre-Marital Sex, Hymen & Hymenoplasty

The struggle for positive sexuality and expression continues and women students of Delhi University are all geared up to dissent these practices this Valentine’s Day Day by upholding a truly equal, inclusive and consensual notion of love and sexuality that is free from the shackles of caste, gender or heteronormativity.

Yogita is a student of Hindu College who works for women rights in Delhi University. 

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