Bhopal: After Hidayatullah National Law University and Panjab University, women at Bhopal’s Regional Institute of Education are protesting to demand an extension of their curfew timings and improvement in their hostel facilities.
For several days last week, the college’s campus was filled with the sound of slogans and students carrying signs with messages like “Na hi warden, na hi bhai, auratein ladengi apni ladai” (Not wardens, not brothers, women can fight their own fight), “Pittrasakta ki khol de pol, pinjra tod” (Expose patriarchy, break your cage) and “Safety without autonomy is injurious to health”.
Students, backed by alumni who faced the same issues, are demanding a change to curfew timings which currently starts at 9pm. Like their peers at HNLU, students here say they’ve had enough of the administration and wardens’ moral policing. They say they’re called “uncultured” and judged for the clothes they wear in addition to having to follow strict curfew timings that prevent them from participating in co-curricular activities. Not so long ago, things were even worse, with curfew set at 5:45 pm, a mere 15 minutes after classes ended at 5:30 pm. At the time, students were also only allowed to go out on Saturdays and expected to be back by 5 pm.
Last Friday, September 14, about 300 students took over the basketball court for the entire night, refusing to budge from their positions until the administration listened to their demands. Most had their faces covered to avoid being recognised and penalised by the college administrators. They were repeatedly asked to uncover their faces but held their ground.
These protests have come after years of students writing letters with similar demands but being pacified with promises of meetings that either never took place or students were not invited to participate in.
So this time round the protestors are not falling for the administration’s tactics. When college representatives told the protestors the principal was too sick to come meet with them, they decided to march to his residence and see him there. Meanwhile, the college’s representative discouraged media persons from talking to the students, in order to limit the visibility of the protest.
The hostellers of Shanti Niketan and Vinay Niketan Girls hostel have raised the following demands:
- Increase the night time deadline to 10pm.
- Allowing students to leave campus on all seven days of the week.
- Hostel wardens be elected by students
- Hostel rules must be made through a voting system to reflect student consensus
- Female hostellers should be allowed to keep their personal vehicles.
- Extension of gym and library tmings
- Access to rooftops at all times
- More accommodation space in the hostels
- Better maintenance of hostels and water facilities.
- No restrictions on choices of clothes worn by hostellers
- Availability of an ambulance 24 hours a day
While some media outlets have reported that the protest has concluded and their demands have been met, but students feel this is not true. Students are still outside the principal’s house as he still refuses to talk with them in person. The authorities have agreed to meet some demands but students are still demanding a concluding paragraph in the written acceptance of these demands to ensure that the college won’t go back on its word. While the college’s official statement says that they’ve accepted demands, it adds a condition that leaves space to take “practicality” into account. Students are suspicious of this being a way out of implementing new systems.
A student who wished to remain anonymous told LiveWire, “We are not satisfied with the explanations provided to us and we find them ambiguous. We want proper written confirmations by the authorities and not vague statements that could be manipulated later.”
Students and their representatives will again take up the matter on Monday, September 17. They will demand specific explanations for the additional comments/clauses added. For now, the protestors are cherishing this step forward by walking to the polytechnic square and sipping some tea.
Lavanya Rana is a student at Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal.
Featured image credit: Pinjra Tod/Facebook