Every year, hundreds if not thousands of students frolic about the city of Delhi in the hope to get into the University of Delhi. Not just DU, but other centralized universities like Jamia, JNU, IPU among all. Many of them manage to get into these famed institutions too. They leave their hometowns and shift to the bustling life of Delhi and adjusting to it.
However, they need a place to stay. A play to live for about 3-5 years and call it home, well temporarily though. Here come the college hostels.
Hostels are supposed to be the home away from home; a place where they can let their guards down, let their walls down and breathe and just be. Which brings me to the topic of college hostels’ wardens. Wardens are supposed to be our mothers in the absence of our own. They are supposed to care for us just like we would be her own flesh and blood. Well, that’s what a warden technically means; be a caretaker, to care, to protect.
Ironically, what happens in the hostels is far from the textbook definitions and the wardens most certainly are NOT caretaking, let alone be motherly figures to us. The hostel life can be much darker than that depicted in the Chetan Bhagat book adaptations like 3 idiots or 2 states. What goes on in the hostels of some central universities is far beyond imaginable.
I’d share a few instances with the readers now.
1.) A Miranda House girl was once assaulted by her warden and shamed to no extent when the warden called her father up in the night to tell him there was no Hindu College boy his daughter had not slept with. All for; she came 3 minutes late to the college hostel because it was the fest season and she had a competition.
That’s not it.
2.) A JMI student was once shamed by some odd college staff when she was sitting outside the department with a few friends with her head resting on the shoulder of some guy friend of hers. Much to everyone’s bewilderment, the staff person came up to her and told her how it was okay for a guy to rest his shoulder on the girl’s shoulder but how immoral it was for the girl to do the same; that she was immoral to do so.
There are a lot of similar instances that can be recounted going on and on.
But why is the condition of women in college hostels so ill? Why are the hostel wardens moral policing to the extent it makes girls break down? Why are they constantly nagging them about what to wear, what NOT to wear, what to eat, what NOT to eat, where to go, where NOT to go, when to go, when to come back, with whom to meet, what to watch, and I don’t know WHAT!
Why is it that the freedom of female adults is captivated they are treated like caged birds?
Pinjra Tod is an autonomous and collective effort of students and alumni of Jamia, DU and other universities across Delhi to stop gender disparity in colleges and hostels and grant women their rights with accommodations in hostels at reasonable fees.
An activist at Pinjra tod is Ms. Devangana Kalita, and who says that adult women are literally spied upon in hostels and God forbid, if the warden loathes you, you are doomed. She may go to the extent of calling up your parents to cook stories about how an immorally loose woman you are and engage in casual sex.
She goes on to explain how patriarchal control is extended and deeply incorporated in the every day practices of the wardens who seem to not know or acknowledge anything about gender-equality being a concept of sheer importance in today’s time.
Moral policing goes on almost every minute of the day, Ms. Kalita goes on saying. If you are stepping out in a pair of shorts from the hostel, you are sure to slut-shamed and God forbid if you smoke, you’ll be shamed to death.
I myself smoke and am an adult with exactly perfect clue as to what’s wrong and what’s right. Sadly, this is not what people understand. I have personally had experiences where the female security guard outside the college gate has name-called me several times as I lit a smoke.
University of Delhi is supposed to be one of the coolest campuses in India. However, the reality is far from same and beckons strongly to disagree.
Why is it that women have to face the brunt of everything? Why are men not put on a pedestal and shamed or questioned? Why are deadlines not for men in college hostels while they drink the night away and a girl coming 3 minutes late to hostel is called a whore? Why are dressing guidelines for women and not for men? Why is it that it is okay for a guy to smoke or smoke-up and step out casually for chai-sutta while a girl smoking is looked down upon?
Pinjra Tod is an organization working towards raising voice against gender inequality & discrimination. It is a collective effort of women students across various colleges to stop the discrimination and demands deliberate debate over the issue and demands pro-active functioning of Sexual Harassment Complaint Committee cells.