The gates of St Stephen’s College of Delhi University (DU) were an hour away from being closed when a student took ill in the women’s hostel. Her friends went to seek permission to take her to a doctor for check-up, but were denied the same since the ‘curfew hour’ was to kick in soon.
Shocked and appalled by the insensitivity, three students vacated the hostel and took up private accommodation. These feisty young women decided that ‘cage’ was not for them. They joined Pinjra Tod, the women’s collective which has taken the university by storm in recent months with its movement against ‘curfew timings’ at the women’s hostels of colleges.
The intransigence of the Stephen’s hostel authorities was the last straw for these women. They were already fed up with the constant moral policing of the hostel warden. “We were asked to cover our shoulders if we wore tank tops. The length of our skirt was an issue. If anyone was seen talking to a male friend, dozens of queries followed,” said a second-year student.
In 2015, students at Jamia Millia Islamia had raised a banner of revolt against ‘curfew timings’ at the women’s hostel. Though the ‘curfew hour’ stayed, they managed to get the deadline extended to 10.30 pm. That success, though partial, has inspired the group to expand the campaign to DU. The ‘curfew timing’ — which means the inmates of women’s hostels cannot stay outside beyond the stipulated hour — is just one factor; their fight is against the “discriminatory and patriarchal” rules faced by women students.
In recent weeks, the women’s collective held protests thrice in the North Campus seeking abolition of the curfew hours and other discriminatory rules. Unfortunately, even at private hostels and PG accommodations, women students have to adhere such ‘rules’.
Paroma Ray, an M.Phil student, recalls the ordeal she faced when a friend of hers was sexually harassed in a park near her PG. Ray got associated with Pinjra Tod in 2015. “The episode was frustrating. The issue here is not the entry and exit, but also your access and claim to the university, your ability to file a complaint and rest assured that institute will back you in such situations,” she said.