On a Monday morning in the beginning of September, students of Delhi University reached their colleges in North Campus to find two colourful words — Pinjra tod — scrawled across campus gates,walls and side walks. The words, which mean ‘break the cage’, was a response to an online campaign started by student activists from different colleges and universities against sexist rules in women’s hostels, particularly those that disallow women from staying out late. The campaign, which began in early August, comprises of women from DU, Jamia Millia Islamia, Ambedkar University, National Law University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. It grew out of a Facebook page where women hostel and PG residents shared their bitter experiences with guards, wardens, principals and landlords.
“I am residing in Nivedita Niwas, a PG in Kamla Nagar. The curfew timing in my PG is 7:30, however, I informed the owner that I would betaking up a coaching class which would go on till a little later and I would be coming back by 8:30-9:00 at least. He told me that would be all-right. However, when the classes started, he told me I would have to call him up every day in the evening to tell when I would becoming back. Nearly 2 months passed this way. Then, on 27th of September, he told me that he had to talk to my mother about my classes. He tried to discourage my mother from allowing me to continue my classes, citing the timings as a major problem. Later, he had to allow me to go since my mother did not agree with him”, –Ramjas College, Delhi University. This is one of the complaints in a recent report submitted to Delhi Commission of Women by Pinjra Tod. In the university hostels, women didn’t have access to university libraries after certain time, whereas, men had. Women are not supposed to go out after a specific time as mentioned in the rules. Also, there was a major difference between hostel fees, to be paid by men and women, both. Obviously, it was much higher for women.This was pretty evident in the new hostel rules laid out by Hindu College. Pinjra Tod fought against this sexist rule by the college and won. Pinjra Tod has been demanding university administrations to come up with a mechanism to standardize private accommodations run primarily for students in terms of cost of facilities, rules, quality of service and and complaint mechanism for instances of harassment etc. This issue was fired by one another instance. In the month of May, a girl who used to reside in a PG in Hudson Lane, was harassed by her landlord, repeatedly. When this was shared by Pinjra Tod on Facebook and other social media sites, lots of comments and messages poured in, girls started tagging in their posts, and writing about it, sharing the same or even worse-experience. To bring the plight of these girls to light, Pinjra Tod took an initiative to make a block list of all the PG's and asked the girls to share the history of experience of bad living conditions-undue interference by PG owners, lack of respect for women’s autonomy, etc. They asked the girls to fill the form and share with the other people so that other girls who are new in the city can make an informed decision about where and how they should live. The campaign has given an impetus to all the female students across the country to unmask the sexist practices they have to face everyday and Pinjra Tod has been receiving huge support from all sections of women, from different parts of the country. On one hand, the argument of ‘securing women’ because of a tremendous increase in the number of incidents of sexual violence has plateaued, while on the other, as a consequence of this campaign, the argument of letting women occupy their spaces themselves has gained nationwide attention.Pinjra Tod is a fight for being mobile, in walks and talks of life,in reality and dreams. In today’s patriarchal atmosphere, only if women take mass participation in campaigns and struggle against gender injustice, the spaces of society can be unleashed, to crush the anti-women ideologies at hand. Women must come together forward to put an end to ages long suppression and oppression.
SOME WALLS WE BREAK ; SOME WALLS WE RECLAIM…
By: Surbhi Sachdeva