Delhi University’s north campus on October 8 saw at least a hundred women protesting against the regressive rules and regulations of the university hostels. The night-long protest against curfew timings was led by Pinjra Tod, a student activist group, which protested at University Enclave and later at Mall Road on October 8. Reportedly, around 100 students staged a sit-in protest with placards in front of the Delhi University’s Arts Faculty demanding the removal of curfew timing. Moreover, the student activist group had submitted a list of demands to the Vice-Chancellor of the University.
What was the protest for?
The protest was the outcome of continuous requests for removing curfew timings in University girls’ hostels over the past two years. Speaking to The Logical Indian, Anoushka Parija, President of Women’s Development Cell at Miranda House College and one of the members of Pinjra Tod said, “There were many protests in the past as well but none of those was properly planned or had big mass gatherings. They were not so impactful, but this year people had enough anger to make it big. A list of demand was sent to the authorities with a week ago, and the deadline for that ended on October 8.”
“When no response was received, girls from various colleges gathered at the Delhi University’s Art Faculty and then headed to the Vice-Chancellor’s Office. After almost two hours, Proctor came to meet students. However, the response from Proctor was dismissive and she did not pay any heed to students’ voices. This added fuel to the students’ agitation and they marched towards Vishwa Vidyalaya Metro Station and later to Mall Road. The protest also witnessed breaking locks of various hostel gates symbolizing freedom for women. The students are in no mood to keep this issue calm and are planning to resume it if no action is taken by the authorities shortly. We have given them a deadline till October 30,” she added.
The protest also witnessed the small clash between the Police and the protesting students. As reported by The Wire, when protestors marched towards the Mall Road and blocked the road, police started manhandling and dispersing the protesting students. The protest got some support from Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), who have already sent a notice to Delhi University (DU) asking to withdraw the biased curfew timings. DCW also sent notice to Jamia Milia Islamia University in 2015, when the similar curfew was imposed in the university
Contentious curfew timings
Curfew time is the last hostel entry time for the girls who are residing in college hostels. The curfew timings are 7.30 pm -10.30 pm for most of the colleges with a few exceptions. But the noticeable part is that these timings are applicable only for girls students. The Wire reports that the curfew timings are rarely imposed on the boys, even as the rules exist on paper. Additionally, curfew timings are illegal as guidelines released by the University Grants Commission in 2016 state that curfew cannot be imposed on women students on the pretext of their safety.
The issue is not new, as a series of similar protests have taken place in the past in various parts of the country. These protests have given a platform to women to raise their voice with solidarity and challenging the ancestral hostel rules. In 2015, Jamia Milia Islamia had issued a notice stating female students to not stay outside the hostel campus after 8 pm. This incident forced DCW to intervene in the matter demanding answers from the authorities. Later the movement got support from Delhi University colleges and other universities colleges across the country in places like Patiala, Banaras, Kottayam, Bhubaneshwar, Ajmer, Kurukshetra, Allahabad and Raipur. The demand of Jamia Milia students was accepted by the administration and their timings were extended to 10.30 pm this year in March. However, the seesaw battle continued as the Jamia Milia Administration rollbacked the timings from 10.30 pm to 9.00 pm in June 2018 and disallowed protests against hostel rules and regulations.
Other demands by the students
The students’ demands are not only confined to curfew timings but they also face other discriminatory issues in the university. As reported by The Wire, in most of the colleges, hostels are allocated on the basis of merit and needy people are deprived of it. There exists discrimination in hostel accommodation for transgenders, differently abled and lower caste students. The students have also asked for the separate hostels for differently abled students, 24/7 access to college libraries and toilets, safe drinking water and strict implementations of reservations for SC, ST, OBC and PwD students.
In the 21st century, India is promoting gender equality as one of its main agenda of development. But these kinds of discriminatory practices highlight the regressive nature of varsity rules. The students in question here are adults and as adults, they should have the right to make choices, irrespective of their gender.
Also Read: BHU Incident Is A Reminder Of The Misogyny & Casual Sexism Prevalent In Colleges Across India