Patiala MP Dharamvir Gandhi met the protesting students at Punjabi University, Patiala, on Thursday and extended his support, saying that though he “believed” in the demand for 24-hour open girls’ hostels, there should be parity in hostel timings for boys and girls as of now. His support came two days after violence erupted on the campus in which 10 students were injured and hospitalised.
“I went there to intervene because the situation is quite explosive. There should be no gender discrimination on the basis of hostel timings and the authorities should focus on parity of timings,” he said.
While girls’ hostels are shut after 8 pm, the main gates of the boys’ hostels close after 11.30 pm. Although the boys can enter or exit through a smaller gate, they are not allowed to take their two-wheelers out. The main gates open once again at 4 am.
Jasmeet, a leader of PSU Lalkaar, said, “There’s no attendance system for us. We can go in and out as we like. Only the main gate shuts at 11.30 pm. We can bring in anyone, there’s no checking too.”
The university authorities have cited security reasons for imposing curfew on girls’ hostels, but Dr Gandhi said in an ideal world, the country should be safe for women. “But the university and the society that governs it are still suspended in a semi-feudal and medieval mindset. Maybe, in 20 to 30 years, this will not even be a question. I have vouched for time parity at hostels as that will be more appropriate at this juncture,” he stated. The MP also said that he had spoken to the Vice-Chancellor to hold discussions with the students as the atmosphere right now was harmful to the academic environment of the university.
“The tension among students is unhealthy. This is the only university in Malwa region and it’ll be sad if the V-C fails to control the situation. There are some elements who want to suppress the movement, those who are believers of old and medieval patriarchal values,” he pointed out.
Dr. Gandhi slammed the reason of lack of security given by the authorities, stating they had failed to hold a proper dialogue or negotiation with the students. “They should provide an atmosphere and tame bad elements instead of taming women. Even the V-C wants to normalise the situation and I have urged him to hold negotiations rather than ignore the situation.”
The MP further stated that more than anything else, women should be allowed to pursue their academics without restrictions. “They’ve come here on merit too, paid the same fees; so why should they be locked up after 8 pm? If they want to use the labs or the library till 3 am, they should be allowed to do that,” insisted Dr.Gandhi.
On Day 24 of the protest by Left-leaning organisations, students held discussions with the authorities that remained inconclusive after they demanded the resignation of Provost Dr.Nishan Singh. The Left parties had invited 25 members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Dakonda who have extended their support to the movement. But the Students Association of Punjab (SAP) that is opposing the protests blocked the main gate of the university and demanded that they should be barred from entering the campus as they were outsiders. Police was called to disperse the crowd and normalise the situation.
The protesting students said they were giving a call to student groups and non-campus organisations to join hands and form an “anti-goondagardi” front. A teachers’ body called Teachers for Intervention also extended its support to the protesters and said that the violence on the campus could have been avoided had it been handled with “greater administrative competence and human empathy”.
“There are times when the person leading an institution is called upon to demonstrate necessary administrative acumen, moral imagination, and intellectual leadership and to build an atmosphere of trust and dialogue. We are yet to see a credible demonstration of these in the management of the current crisis. We expect the Vice-Chancellor to provide the required leadership with clarity, objectivity, courage, and commitment, failing which various members of the university community may continue to be targeted by violent, lawless elements,” they said in a press release.
They also added that there was “no place for any violence – physical, verbal or gestural – in society, much less in places dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge”. The statement was signed by convener Dr.Surjit Singh, who has supported the movement from the beginning, and co-convener Dr.Rajesh Sharma.