After focusing their efforts on Delhi University’s north campus colleges, especially Miranda House, protesters shifted their attention to south campus, starting with Lady Shri Ram College on November 5.
Pinjra Tod, the women’s collective leading the protest, has been demanding the scrapping of curfews at girls’ hostels along with other changes including the introduction of OBC reservations in hostel allocation and for buildings to be made accessible for students with disabilities. Their demands also include 24*7 library access and wifi availability. Students are also asking for the scrapping of “gating out” a practice unique to LSR which involves students being suspended from their own hostels for 15 days as a punitive measure.
Anticipating the protesters’ demands, the college’s administration pre-emptively released a list of policy changes, possibly hoping to avoid the lock-breaking and sloganeering they knew was coming.
In a circular released on November 3, LSR agreed to abolish the local guardian system, instead students will now be asked to provide an emergency contact of their choice. Ignoring the students’ demand for the abolishment of a curfew altogether, the college has promised a new, extended time of 10:30pm starting January 2019. The circular adds that “all residents can access the hostel gardens till 11pm at night, after signing themselves in and out.” The catch, however, is that the college has simultaneously introduced a 60% hostel attendance requirement, effectively limiting the number of nights or days a resident can spend outside the hostel’s premises.
Pinjra Tod unequivocally rejected the partial measures, posting on Facebook, saying, “We reject these ‘relaxations’ and attendance criteria and selective fulfilment of our charter!” The group added, “What about implementation of constitutionally mandated OBC reservation in allocation of hostel seats, what about reservation and infrastructural accessibility for PwD students, what about 24*7 library and WiFi access?”
And so, on the night of November 5, a crowd of protestors took it upon themselves to break down LSR’s locked gates and occupy the very campus spaces that they, as women, have been denied access to. In a Facebook live video, students can be seen scaling the red gates of the college.
Within an hour of starting their protest, students had occupied the main road in front of LSR, broken all the locks, effectively breaking curfew and preventing any attendance from being taken on November 5. Eventually, the principal of the college conceded to the students’ demands to talk with her. However, at 2:30am on November 6, the group posted on Facebook, announcing: “There will be a full STRIKE & BOYCOTT OF CLASSES TODAY because when the Principal finally came out to meet us, she had no answers to our demands…” They added that she had only promised “setting up committees” in response to their specific demands.
It remains unclear whether the administration will concede to the students’ demands.