"My friend and I were groped, pushed on the chest with elbows, and inappropriately touched on the lower back. Others were also groped," alleged a third-year student of Delhi University's prestigious college, Miranda House.
She was talking to The Quint about the afternoon of Friday, 14 October, when a Diwali Mela was being held on campus – and from where purported videos of young men scaling college walls surfaced.
Soon after the videos were posted, allegations of misbehaviour with women also cropped up online.
The Delhi Police has filed an FIR against unknown persons, under sections pertaining to outraging modesty of women, and trespassing. No arrests have been made so far.
DCP (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi told The Quint, "We took cognizance of the videos and tweets and filed an FIR. We did not receive any PCR calls on the day of the alleged incident, nor have we received a written complaint from the college authorities or students."
Miranda House principal, Professor Bijaylaxmi Nanda, told news agency ANI that so far, "no complaints of sexual harassment have been received."
She said, "Police have been informed and they are checking all CCTV footage." The student, however, told The Quint that "we've informed college authorities of about what happened."
Supriya, a 20-year-old student of Miranda House, alleged that she heard lewd sloganeering from a bunch of young men, including "Ramjas ka naara hai, Miranda humaara hai (This is Ramjas' slogan, all of Miranda is ours.)"
Ramjas is a co-ed college on the north campus, just a few minutes away from Miranda House, which is an all-girls college.
The Quint spoke to multiple students about what happened on Friday.
Apart from this, former students of Miranda House and other all-girls DU institutions such as Gargi College, Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), and Indraprastha College for Women also weigh in on safety on campus.
What Happened at the Miranda House Diwali Mela?
Supriya told The Quint that entry to the Diwali Mela on Friday began at 10.30 am. "By 11 am, the campus was nearly full. Any DU student could come in as long as they had valid ID cards of DU colleges."
She claimed that while the mela was supposed to be held only at certain parts of the premises, "people trespassed into classrooms and hostels."
The Women’s Development Cell (WDC) of Miranda House too stated that "Many attendees of the fest, primarily men, went entirely out of control" after it became "apparent that the college could not contain more people and an evacuation was ordered." The WDC, in its statement, claimed that "They (attendees, primarily men) entered restricted premises like classrooms, ignored the requests of professors and staff, and responded rudely to appeals to behave and invaded the students’ personal space."
Supriya alleged that some of her friends told her that they "saw boys who found bras and were parading it around the event… They were objectifying girls."
The third-year student, who had alleged that she and her friend were groped, also told The Quint, "After the mela was called off, our professors asked us to help them empty the college. When we politely asked outsiders to vacate, lewd comments were thrown at us."
Another student, Sobhana, who tweeted two purported videos of men scaling the walls of Miranda House on Friday, told The Quint just how unsafe the female students felt that day.
"That day, a huge crowd, largely a male crowd, gathered outside the college. My classmates claimed they faced harassment, they were catcalled and groped, and their sarees were pulled," she alleged.
On Monday, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) released a statement on the incident, addressed to the Delhi Police.
"Provide the details of the arrested persons in the matter. If no arrests have been made, please inform the steps being taken to make arrests," the Commission added in its notice to Delhi Police.
"When we held a smaller, largely peaceful protest to show solidarity with Bilkis Bano earlier this year, there were around 50 police constables and 20 women constables stationed in our campus. During the Diwali Meal, however, there was not enough security. Why?"
'Mentally Prepare Ourselves That Fests Are Unsafe'
These are not isolated incidents, claimed many students.
Chitvan Godara, who graduated from Miranda House in 2013, recalled an incident that took place during the annual fest:
"During our fest back in 2012, I was in-charge of managing the crowd. A huge crowd turned up at the gate without passes and started getting agitated when we did not let them in. Then, the principal told me to hand out a few passes so that they do not create ruckus. I did that. In some time, I got a call on the walkie-talkie and was told that someone climbed on the stage and removed their pants. We eventually had to hold hands and form a human chain in front of the basketball court, so that the boys do not enter our hostel, hide, and attack us later on."
She recalled a similar atmosphere during another fest, where huge crowds compromised the safety at campuses, and added, "It is alarming that the situation has not changed in ten years."
Faaria Hilaly, who graduated in Philosophy earlier this year, alleged that a similar instance had taken place a few months ago at Miranda House.
"Earlier this year, there was a fest organised by the Sociology department, the first one since classes resumed after the pandemic. Men tried to get in and there was pushing, touching and chanting of communal slogans," claimed the 21-year-old.
She said that the festival had to be called off in the middle of the day by the principal. As per Miranda House's WDC, on 14 October, "classes were cancelled and students were left in a fix."
Hilaly opined that there's a "growing perception among men from nearby colleges that 'Let’s go to Miranda to check out girls'… We mentally prepared for fests. We knew that our campus is not safe on fest day."
It is pertinent to note that for the last six years, Miranda House has been ranked as the number one college in the country as per the Ministry of Education’s National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF).
While Hilaly recalled instances from 2022, Anushree Majumdar, a former English Literature student who graduated from Miranda House in 2006, recalled how "during festivals, women would either not be around or move around only in groups. This was the unspoken rule, and this is true for any woman's college in this country."
She told The Quint, "I was emceeing a choreography event during our annual fest, Tempest, which was open to everyone. The dancing event was the most popular and populated event, and one of the women’s colleges choreographed a dance that depicted rape in a very sensitive manner. During that performance, I remember people hooting and whistling."
'It Has Become Worse Over the Years'
As videos from Miranda House went viral over the weekend, former students took to WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook groups to lament the state of affairs.
Ajailiu Niumai, currently a Sociology professor at the University of Hyderabad, who graduated from Miranda House in 1995, told The Quint that she was "devastated" when she saw the video.
"I have been very agitated all day... I do not know how this is happening in this day and age. While there were instances of men approaching women, it was never this obscene. I remember that we used to have hostel nights and women would call their friends, both male and female... and it would go on till 11 pm… What has been happening recently is unimaginable," she said.
Professor Ajailiu said that she faced "slurs back then because she's from the northeast… but this type of hooliganism was not there before."
Ankita Anand, who graduated from Miranda House in 2006, was the president of the students' union, and spoke about the annual college fest that she organised.
Anand told The Quint, "When I watched these videos, I was reminded of the annual fest in 2005-2006… I remember security was a big thing that we spent a lot of time figuring out. We were aware that whenever there was some function, outsiders, mainly men, would throng around the gates and come in. We had a lot of volunteers who patrolled areas around the gates, and I was at different places during the fest but each day, there were incidents of trespassing throughout the day. I would also get calls saying that 'I'm president of so-and-so, please let me in the college'."
This incident from Friday, however, "means that things have got worse," she said.
Meanwhile, Madhura Dasgupta, who graduated from Miranda House in 2007, recalled instances of "catcalling on Valentine's Day," but still feeling "more or less safe walking in and around campus."
Fetishisation of All-Girls Colleges
Such instances have been seen in other girls' colleges too in the past, highlighting that Saturday's incident was not any singular occurrence, and pointing towards a deeper problem.
In February 2020, unidentified men allegedly molested and harassed several women during Gargi College's annual college fest 'Reverie'. The police arrested 17 people people who were later granted bail.
Nitu Choudhary, a second-year student at Gargi College, said that her seniors have told her a lot about the incident.
"I wasn't there obviously but I heard from our seniors that a lot of men showed up at the fest. They touched women inappropriately and they threw condoms too. Nobody wants to have a conversation about these things... But we are in constant fear," she alleged.
In 2018, horrific instances during Holi celebrations at Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) had surfaced on the internet, with women alleging that semen-filled balloons were thrown at them.
Ria Chopra, a former student at LSR, told The Quint, "Even on smaller events and normal days, random men would just hang outside the college for no reason but to invade our spaces."
According to Majumdar, the reason for this is that women's spaces hold a lot of "mystery for men when they are on the outside."
"There was always this buzz around our college being a girls college, a lot of sexualised rumours, a lot of overactive imagination about what happens at Miranda. We found it funny because it was an extremely strict college. It’s the same sort of mystery that surrounds other female institutions."
"I do want to ask, how do the authorities of these institutions not anticipate an incident like this?" questioned Majumdar.
Meanwhile, the Diwali Mela at DU’s Indraprastha College for Women is now "open only to women."
Shambhavi Choudhary, a second-year student of the college, told The Quint, "A few days ago, there was an art exhibition in college. Even though it was a much smaller crowd, there were men catcalling students."
She claimed that due to this and what happened at Miranda House, "our principal announced that our Diwali Mela which will be held on Tuesday, will be open only to women."