With Open Letter, Jamia Milia’s Women Students Continue Fight Against Gender-Biased Rules

After protesting in March, Jamia Milia Islamia’s female students are taking on the university’s administration again – this time for going back on the promises it made just a few months ago.

Back in March, students in Jamia’s women’s hostel had successfully demanded that their curfew (which was only imposed on women, not men) be moved back from 8:00 pm to 10:30 pm. However the new prospectus for the 2018-2019 session states that the curfew has been changed to 9:00 pm, an hour and a half earlier from the promised time.

In an open letter addressed to the vice chancellor, the students have also raised issue with some conditions included in the ‘hostel renewal’ forms for the upcoming academic year. According to the letter, the form includes a clause which states that residents of the university’s hostel can have their accommodation cancelled if they participate in “any form of physical or signatory protests or resistance against the hostel or University administration”

In addition to calling the rescinding of promises “unethical,” the students have refused to sign onto a clause that violates their “democratic and fundamental rights” by restricting them from raising their voices to attain their rights as adult citizens of India.

The letter goes on to compare the hostel to a prison, listing some of the ways that women students are treated differently from their male counterparts. According to the letter, “the hostel rules mandate that for women students there be a roll call every day to check that every resident is present. No such process exists for the men.”

And, unlike men, women need a local guardian’s permission if they want to go out of the hostel.

The letter asks, “Can our voices, views and rights be so easily dismissed? As adult citizens of this country, do we not, then, get to the privilege to exercise our fundamental rights?”

It continues, “Our cages are getting smaller and smaller and we are helpless to do anything but resist.”

Curfew timings and gendered treatment have been hotly protested issues on Jamia’s campus for three years now, starting with a round of protests in 2015. Additionally, the letter points out that students’ demand for streetlights to be installed in the women’s hostel area have also been ignored – which goes against the university’s stated claim of prioritising their female students’ safety.

The letter demands that this prospectus be scrapped and a new one be issued which sticks to the demands that the students put forward in March – and that no decision be made without discussing it with residents of both the old and new hostels. It also demands that the provosts of both the old and new women’s hostels be removed from their positions.

In the letter, the women also say, “Despite the fear of further repression, our vision of Jamia as a space where people of all genders can express themselves freely, can live and love freely and live with dignity still burns on.”

Featured image credit: Representative image from Pinjra Tod/Facebook