Recently, Pinjra Tod, a women’s collective began an all-night protest at Delhi University’s Arts Faculty demanding curfew-less nights for women’s hostels. The call by Pinjra Tod comes after the group held an all-night protest in the University on Monday and even blocked traffic on the Mall Road as their talks with the proctor and deputy proctor of DU did not yield results.
Pinjra Tod is an autonomous women’s collective of students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi, India that seeks to make hostel and paying guest (PG) accommodation regulations less regressive and restrictive for women students, with the idea of reclaiming public places.
They work towards countering the ‘security narrative’ which is structured around securitization of the bodies of women and patriarchal protectionism. Challenging the CCTV-driven police-security complex, Pinjra Tod demands that ‘safety’ and ‘security’ not be used to silence women’s right to mobility and freedom.
Their primary demands are against imposing of ‘curfews’ on women, demand for affordable accommodation for women, regularization of PGs, and constitution of an elected Internal Complaint Committees for prevention, prohibition, and redressal of sexual harassment in the university space.
Pinjra Tod had last week submitted a charter of demands to the Vice-Chancellor of the University demanding removal of curfew timings and allowing 24-hour entry into women’s hostels, abolishing the concept of local guardians for students and keeping a provision for an emergency local contact. They had threatened to stage a protest if the demands were not met within a week.
On Monday evening, around 100 students with placards staged a sit-in outside the Arts Faculty while some of them even tried to scale the gates but their attempts were thwarted by the security personnel. They later tried to block the nearby Mall Road for some time as some of the protesters jumped in front of oncoming vehicles, the police said.
However, the police intervened and facilitated a discussion between the agitating group and the Proctor, Deputy Proctor and pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University. As the administration failed to pacify the crowd, the protesters, insisting that their demands be agreed to immediately, launched their all-night agitation.
The protesters also accused the police of physically assaulting them, a charge denied by the police. The student’s collective further demanded a new women’s hostel for differently-abled students and the setting up of an internal complaint committee against sexual harassment in all colleges and institutions.
The student collective Pinjra Tod has written to the Delhi University vice-chancellor on the authorities failing to act on their promises to solve the problems of curfew timings for women students and their safety. After several days of campaigning, Pinjra Tod collected signatures on its charter of demands and submitted a memorandum and a petition to the proctor and the dean of students’ welfare (DSW) on October 1.
The collective said it wanted to register its protest “in solidarity with the many who have resisted these draconian rules while also proceeding towards curfew-less nights, accessible and secured public spaces through our collective assertion”. It alleged that despite the collective raising the demands for the past three years, the DU administration has shown no sign of acting on these.
“The internal complaints committee (ICC) code is still unimplemented, the curfew still remains, necessary infrastructural work undelivered,” the petition said. The charter of demands also raised the need for more hostels.
Shweta Kumari, a Law Faculty student from Bihar, said, “Many PWD (person with a disability) students have to stay at private PGs and hostels that are unsafe. These are far away in Rohini and Dwarka, and the food is also bad. Most girls didn’t speak out as they fear they would be thrown out of the hostels. We want hostels with at least 70-75% reservation.”
The charter also called for need-based, not merit-based, allocation of hostel seats and “strict implementation” of reservations in all women’s hostels.