IT SEEMED like an encore of the night when Kanupriya, president, Panjab University Campus Student Council, won the election. Over 200 girls, some in their night wear, from different PU hostels joined Kanupriya outside hostels 3 and 4 on Tuesday night to protest, demanding 24-hour open girls’ hostels. The girls came out of their hostels at 9.30 pm. Woman residents cannot come out after 9 pm and have to mark their attendance daily. However, they can enter till 11 pm.
“The 11 pm curfew is a sham. The authorities like to boast about it but we can only enter till 11 pm. We cannot exit the hostels after 9 pm,” said a protester, who refused to be named. The slogans of the night were “Hostel kholo”, “PU prashasan murdabad” and “Naari mukti, sabki mukti zindabad”.
Kanupriya addressed the girls perched atop the cemented base of the street light outside girls’ hostels 3 and 4. “We can take responsibility for our own safety. The authorities must accept our demands and if they cannot, then they should come here and give us answers for the same,” she said. Kanupriya added that the students will not tolerate such discrimination inside the Panjab University campus.
Besides the demand for 24-hour open hostels, other women-centric demands include proper lighting on the streets, hoardings of anti-sexual harassment panel outside hostels and departments and student representation in the Punjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment (PUCASH).
“We’ll get all our demands fulfilled. Security of women cannot be an excuse anymore. For us, security is a closed fist just like our unity,” said Hassanpreet, presidential candidate of Students For Society (SFS) in 2017.
Kanupriya then led a protest rally to girls’ hostels 5 and 7 where girls entered the gates amid loud cheers. A large number of boys also took part in the protest.
Kanupriya appealed to the residents of the hostels to come out and protest. “I appeal to those who aren’t afraid of the authorities to come out and join us. Tell your friends, come out. What we’re doing is not wrong. All we’re doing is reclaiming our spaces,” she said.
Some wardens of the boys’ hostel, chief of university Prof Ashwani Koul and security personnel were present at the spot.
“It’s necessary to keep hostels open at all hours because it’s too less time till 9 pm. We keep planning if we want to go out, it never really happens. We can’t go out after 9 pm, but can enter till 11 pm,” said two students of BSc physics.
While Prof Koul was chasing boys out of the premises of girls hostel 7, there was no check on the vehicles moving up and down the road in front of the girls’ hostels.
Some male protesters asked Prof Koul to keep a check on the cars moving up and down, many of which were doing so repeatedly.
To this, Prof Koul told Chandigarh Newsline, “Have you asked the girls why they are protesting? The protest has squeezed all of our security personnel, we can’t do anything else. But we’re trying our best to keep a check on the outsiders.”
There were two PCRs and police personnel from Sector 11 police station. However, they were no untoward incidents or any nuisance during the protest.
A masters student standing outside the girls’ hostel said, “I don’t support the protest because safety is paramount. What if something happens? I don’t think we’re capable of taking care of ourselves. If something happens, then women will start complaining.”
Kanupriya and eight other girls will be sleeping outside girls hostels 3 and 4 till their demands are met.