Night-long Protest at RIE Bhopal After College Expels Student Suffering From Depression

Just a few months after a huge protest against regressive hostel rules for women at Bhopal’s Regional Institute of Education (RIE), students are gearing up for their next battle against the administration.

On Tuesday, April 9, over 200 students gathered on the campus to demand justice for the student who was arbitrarily asked to vacate the hostel when she requested a week-long medical leave. The student, who was recently diagnosed with a moderate depressive disorder, had attached a medical certificate with her leave application to explain her condition.

The administration, however, allegedly declined her request, called her certificate fake and later threatened her parents when she refused to comply with their orders.

According to woman’s collective Pinjra Tod, the administration subsequently confined the student in her hostel room and called her “loose and characterless” after realising that she had submitted a legitimate certificate.

Students at RIE Bhopal protesting against the administration. Image credit: Student at RIE Bhopal.

“They think that by confining her to her hostel room, they are ‘taking care of her!’ Clearly, the intention is not to take care of her, but suffocate her and create an atmosphere ridden in fear and [un]conducive for accessing a dignified education, ” said Pinjra Tod in their statement on Facebook.

Enraged, students from different departments covered their faces with dupattas and sat outside, under the scorching sun, to demand justice for the student.

They were shouting slogans like ‘nahi warden, nahi bhai, auratein ladegi apni ladai’ (neither warden, neither brother, women will fight for their rights on their own), ‘Kuch salakhein tooti hain, poora pinjra baaki hai’ (Only shackles are broken, we are still caged), ‘Auratein apne aap ki, nahi kisi ke baap ki’ (women don’t belong to anyone),Autonomy toh dhoka hai, dhakka maaro mauka hai’ (Autonomy is all farce, lets fight and take back what’s ours).

Besides, the students also asked the administration to fulfil the following demands:

  • Water availability must be made in the hostels 24*7
  • There must be a stationery shop having proper photocopy services and a cafeteria on the campus.
  • Maintenance of the hostels must be conducted semi-annually.
  • The academic calendar must be issued at the beginning of the session, having examination dates also, which must be strictly followed.
  • A Students’ Union must be formed from the next session.
  • Provision for leave: only marking entries in the leave register at the main gate must be necessary. There must not be any provision of sanctioning of leave from the warden and HOD.
  • Mess fees must be directly submitted to the mess contractor.
  • Mess fees refunds must be made to the students who are on leave on any grounds.
  • Female relatives, friends and other female hostlers must be allowed to visit inside the hostel.
  • Library and gym must be open 24*7.
  • Choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu for the hostel mess must be decided by the hostellers.
  • Hostellers must be allowed to keep any personal vehicles.
  • Remove ‘practicality of situation’ clause from the hostel rulebooks. No other such vague clause must be added.
  • An apology letter must be given to those ex-hostellers and their parents who were expelled from the hostels for arbitrary grounds. They must be readmitted to the hostels, if they want to.
  • Transparency must be there in the use of hostel funds.
  • CCTVs must be removed from the hostel premises because they violate our right to privacy. They must be instead installed in the campus.
  • An ambulance must be made available 24*7.
  • Wi-Fi must be made available in every wing of the hostel.
  • Official fresher’s party, farewell party, convocation ceremony must be organised by the institute.
  • Campus access must be there 24*7 for hostellers i.e. hostel gates and grills must be open 24*7
  • Outings must be allowed from 5:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • Food delivery must be allowed 24*7 in the campus.
  • There must be a non-academic chief warden.
  • Chief warden, deputy chief warden and warden of Vinayniketan Girls’ hostel (Dr Kalpana Maski) and maintenance in-charge of the hostels must resign from their respective posts.
  • There must be no post of chief warden and deputyd chief warden.
  • Semester examination of final year students must be conducted on time and the results must be out on time so that their next academic or professional plan is not affected.

The administration’s heavy-handedness 

The administration, however, didn’t respond to their concerns, prompting the students to spend the night in the middle of college’s basketball court with their faces still covered. Instead, the administration has reportedly told students that they will cancel all placement interviews if the protest isn’t called off.

Students sitting in the middle of the basketball court in protest. Image provided by a student at RIE Bhopal.

According to a student, who participated in the protest, the administration didn’t extend any help and instead called the protestors “kachra (trash).” “To instil fear among the students, the administration deployed police in the campus but we will continue with the protest untill all our demands are met,” she added.

Students participating in the protest say that the male students are also backing the administration’s decision. “Not a single male student came out in support of our protest. Instead, they were laughing at us the whole time and were criticising us for asking for curfew extensions. They say there is no point in extending the curfew hours to 10.30 pm,” said another student on condition of anonymity.

Male students have also reportedly tried to disband female protesters.

Ever since the protest in September against arbitrary curfew timings for female students, students say, the hostel authorities have been targeting those who participated in the agitation.

“One of our batchmates was also kicked out two months back. Students who participated in the protest have to bear the torture harsher. Our leave applications are delayed purposefully in a bid to teach us a lesson for demanding our rights. To curb democratic process in the college, there are no student councils in place apart from hostel leaders to regulate students behaviour in a dictatorial fashion”, said a female hosteller.

It has been more than 12 hours since the protest started but the authorities have not responded to students’ concerns. On top of that, they have threatened the students to call their parents if they don’t call off the protest.

Extending support to RIE students, Pinjra Tod activists will assemble outside the NCERT office in Delhi to protest against unfair hostel regulations in RIEs across India.

“We have been in touch with the students of RIE across India. With every protest, the repression has been harsher. Colleges cannot throw out people on the basis of their disability or vulnerability. Our protest is to create greater pressure on the RIE Bhopal administration who have been consistent with their zero accountability position,” said a Pinjra Tod member.

Aishwarya Shrivastav is a 22-year-old freelance journalist, history graduate from the University of Delhi and author of ‘Mouthpiece’.