AT A quiet meeting inside the office of the Dean, Student Welfare (DSW), the Panjab University authorities took a historic decision on Thursday. That is to extend the curfew at girls’ hostels from 9 pm to 11 pm.
Earlier, women’s hostels on the campus did not allow residents to step out after 9 pm. Also, residents could enter the hostels by 10 pm without paying fine. Entry between 10 pm and 10.30 pm attracted a fine of Rs 200 with students allowed only six such instances. The fine after 10.30 pm was Rs 250.
The demand was for 24-hour entry, but the authorities have agreed to an 11 pm curfew, keeping in view “security concerns”.
The university has repeatedly said the reason for the curfew is that it cannot provide security to women after 9 pm. Girls account for 74 per cent of the student strength at the varsity.
Emanual Nahar, DSW and also chairperson of the student council, said, “We have agreed to extend the timings to 11 pm. Also, they can stay out till midnight in case of an emergency. We will issue a circular tomorrow to implement the new timings. We cannot provide 24-hour access as parents want their children to be safe.”
Students’ march on campus on April 12
Pinjra Tod, a campaign launched by Vani Sood, Secretary, Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC) on March 21, kicked off on the campus on April 2.
Sood’s plan was to visit all the 11 women’s hostels to take a feedback from residents on issues, including hostel timings for women, women’s security and sexual harassment of women on the campus. “I just thought of taking stock of the feedback that I have received so far from three hostels. I will continue with the plan which will end with a students’ march on the campus on April 12,” said Sood.
The fine for late entry has also been reduced to Rs 100, but only as a deterrent and not as a means to generate income, she added.
Other demands accepted by the authorities included proper lighting and fencing in the university, CCTV cameras for increased surveillance, no restrictions for PhD and MPhil students in lab and clinic timings, suggestion boxes at the office of the V-C, Student Centre, AC Joshi Library and all hostels and a 24×7 student helpline.
Sood further said, “A majority of the feedback so far has suggested that girls do not want 24-hour access till the time security is tightened in the university.”
On March 19, Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi was forced to give in to students’ demands and extend its curfew from 8 pm to 10.30 pm a week after a woman student was not allowed to receive food she had ordered after 8 pm. Pinjra Tod began in Jamia in 2015 in response to a rule that did not allow women to be out after 8 pm.
SOI ends hunger strike, chaos in front of gate 3
As PUCSC nears completion of its term, other student bodies, including Students’ Organisation of India (SOI) and Students For Society (SFS), have also launched their own campaigns, calling for equal rights for women on the campus with a special focus on hostel timings.
An SOI member, Iqbalpreet Singh, was rushed to the Government Multi-Speciality Hospital, Sector 16, after sugar levels in his body dropped below normal. Iqbalpreet was sitting on hunger strike for the past five days, demanding equal rights and security for women on the campus.
The members of SOI, the student wing of the Akali Dal, also raised slogans against the authorities in front of gate 3 after which the DSW met them and accepted their demands.
Iqbalpreet said, “For the past three months, we have been demanding that restrictions in hostel timings for women should be done away with. This was also on our election manifesto and we submitted numerous memorandums to the DSW.”
‘Public spaces not for men only’
On April 4, SFS launched a day-night dharna in front of the vice chancellor’s office for 24-hour entry in girls’ hostels and other demands. They have also been visiting women’s hostels to make students aware of the need to do away with the curfew.
SFS had raised the issue of 24-hour hostel entry for girls back in 2015 when they pitched a woman presidential candidate for their debut in the student council elections.
SFS general secretary Harman Deep said, “The 24-hour entry to women’s hostels is a long-standing demand of the students. It is the fruit of the years of struggle that the university authorities have bowed down to.” He added that the authorities have always justified their stand by expressing “security concerns”.
“They, too, are responsible for students’ safety on the campus. They say graduate and undergraduate girl students are not mature enough to handle this freedom. It is ironic that these girls possess the right to determine their representatives in Parliament, but cannot be responsible for themselves,” he further said.
Public spaces, he added, did not belong to boys only. The more women claim public spaces, the “issue of security” loses ground.
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