Why Women at Panjab University Are Shouting ‘Death to Patriarchy’

Why Women at Panjab University Are Shouting ‘Death to Patriarchy’

My Report

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

“Rokey tainu kehda hai, adha ambar tera hai.”
(Who will stop you? Half the sky is yours.)

The ‘Gedi route’ – a road near the girls’ hostels at the Panjab University – has changed a lot in the last few days. On this road, where men usually drive luxury cars and play loud Punjabi songs while ‘checking out’ women, hundreds of students have been shouting Azadi and ‘Death to Patriarchy’ slogans in the middle of the night.

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The students have been protesting since 29 October. 
The students have been protesting since 29 October. 
(Photo: The Quint)

In terms of smashing patriarchy through women’s representation in politics, history has been been rewritten at PU a few times this year. Recently, the first-ever elected woman president from Students For Society took charge of the Panjab University Campus Student Council (PUCSC). Her win sent a stern message to the nation and, especially, to the PU authorities.

The second time, history was rewritten on 29 October, when women began protesting against hostel curfew timings for girls. They were led by the SFS, All India Students Association (AISA) and the Punjab Students Union, Lalkar.

“The authorities completely ignored our demands in the first week of the protest,” a PU student says. 
“The authorities completely ignored our demands in the first week of the protest,” a PU student says. 
(Photo: The Quint)

Girl students at the Panjab University have been complaining about the strict hostel rules that are not imposed on boys. Despite having the same hostel handbooks for everyone, the ‘parental’ PU Dean Office charges a fine from the women who enter the hostel after 11:30 pm. Even girls who forget to mark their attendance at 9 pm every day are fined.

It’s unfair that girls’ hostels have such complicated rules while the gates of the boys’ hostels are open 24x7. The disparity is as simple as freedom and as complex as patriarchy.

For the first one week (after the protest began), PU authorities thought ignorance was their best option, despite young women sleeping outside at night.

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Student movements demanding equal rules for women have previously erupted in Rajasthan and Delhi too. 
Student movements demanding equal rules for women have previously erupted in Rajasthan and Delhi too. 
(Photo: The Quint)

Every year, the call for freedom reignites and authorities hand a sugar candy to the students by adjusting a few hours here and there. This year, they’ve extended the curfew by two hours. Meanwhile, organisations like the ABVP, ISA, etc are derailing the real movement.

There are people who have spoken against the extension of the curfew on social media, wrapping it nicely in the term of ‘societal concerns’.

Some have highlighted issues such as the ‘security of women’, while some have claimed that women might ‘misuse’ their freedom.

The saffron supporters interrupt the rallies, shouting: “What about Indian sanskriti?” But what people fail to understand is that by removing the curfew, it won’t be necessary for girls to stay out at night.

This struggle is for the freedom of the will.
Women put up posters at the Panjab University in Chandigarh.
Women put up posters at the Panjab University in Chandigarh.
(Photo: The Quint)

The most common argument by critics is that parents won’t agree with abolishing curfew for women. The university needs to take the parents into confidence that the campus is a safe space for their daughters. Indian parents happily send their children to IISERs/IITs and IIMs with 24*7 open girls’ hostels. But here, some universities are holding on to concerns about women’s security even though similar protests have erupted all around the nation, including in Rajasthan and the Delhi University.

The first step towards winning over patriarchy and striking down regressive patriarchal values is to reclaim our space in our own country.

As it is said, freedom cannot be bestowed, it must be achieved. Students of the Panjab University are adamant on achieving it.

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(The author is the first female President of Chandigarh’s Panjab University (PU). She won the election from the left-leaning Students For Society Party, which was also elected for the first time.)

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