Published: 30th July 2020
AMU's female students claim they were harassed, cajoled 'off the books' into vacating hostels, amidst rising COVID numbers
Thee students claim the university is not making any formal announcements but is ‘informally’ pushing them to leave
Several women students from Aligarh Muslim University's hostel have alleged they were forced to vacate their hostel rooms despite rising COVID cases in the country. The students claim that they are being harassed by the hostel authorities to leave the hostel and that their supervisors, guides, guardians and parents were being forced to urge the students to leave too.
Students from the women’s hostel at AMU said that since the lockdown was announced in March, they have been pressured to go back to their homes, despite the fact the UGC had directed Universities to leave it up to the students to decide whether they wanted to go home. “They did not stop at just asking us, they went a step ahead by asking our respective supervisors, departmental chairman, local guardians and hassling our parents, to pressurise us to go back home at earliest,” a student said. “Related to the coercion not just the women students but their parents were under anxiety and mental stress of getting their wards exposed to COVID 19 and insecurity while travelling back to their home alone,” the student added.
The students claim the university is not making any formal announcements but is ‘informally’ pushing them to leave. They said that a notice was being shared on WhatsApp and they approached the administration to verify if it was true, “On enquiring about the authenticity of the notice, we got to know they have not put this under any public domain or university sites but hundreds of hostel inmates were forced to leave,” the students allege.
With floods in places like Assam and spiking cases in several cities in the country, students said it was very difficult for them to even get tickets. In many cases, students have to change trains and undertake long and gruelling journeys back home, “How are people supposed to find a way to go back to regions that are hit by floods? Many of us don’t have room at home to isolate ourselves.” One student who felt forced to leave in the same way just a few days ago, says she is currently stuck in an institutional quarantine and has been awaiting the results of her COVID test for days. “I did not want to leave, my parents did not want me to leave. I had to take a cab from the University to Delhi, which was very expensive for me and was very difficult to afford. From there I have to take trains and change the trains as well because my home town is very far. Again, it isn’t in the city. So many are like me, they don’t all live in places that are easily accessible and because of the spiking cases in my region, the institutional quarantine was mandatory. Isn’t all this being done willfully, to put us in danger. Forcing us to risk getting COVID?” she questioned.
“They told us they’d give us certificates to show authorities that we don’t have COVID but why would any official take that seriously? How are we supposed to spend so much money on travel, I come from a very middle class family and I’m pursuing my Masters here, so I’m completely dependent on my parents for money and they don’t mind paying my hostel fees so I can stay here safely, so why can’t the University allow us to stay,” a student said, furiously. “They are issuing notices saying ‘advisory’ - that they advise us to go home. But actually they are harassing us. Everyday they’ll come and ask us when we’re leaving. Ask us to show our confirmed tickets, even though they gave us only about 20 days to get everything figured out. If we dare to ask any questions back, they issue threats or they comment on our lives and our characters. They made our lives a living hell, which was why we had no choice but to leave,” a student explained. The students were also insistent we don’t use their names in this article because they fear they would be targeted and harassed about it.
Sometimes the coercion could have come from close quarters. “My guide told me that the administration kept demanding that they force me to leave. But my guide is a good person and refused to give in to the demands and said that they cannot force me to just leave. We are not children, we can make decisions by ourselves. They keep calling our parents and guardians and forcing them to ask us to leave when all our parents want is for us to be safe,” a student said. “Some students said that some parents were also insulted and accused of being bad parents because they didn’t want the students to travel home. Is this how they talk to people?” she added.
Unlike their male counterparts, female students claim that they were forbidden from leaving the hostel ever since March and they have been following the hostel rules, “But they wouldn’t even let us go out to buy sanitary pads. Two friends needed to go to the bank urgently and when they asked for permission, they just said how they can trust the students won’t go shopping at the market. We weren’t allowed to even take a step outside, even for emergencies.” The students still didn’t mind the rules because they were helpless but what really set them off is that the boys hostels apparently didn’t have any such restriction, “The boys were allowed to go out and roam around. Even now when they forced us to get out of the hostels, we weren’t allowed to step out even for things like getting scans or copies. We had to ask the boys to get them done for us. There is such massive gender discrimination. Also it is only the girls who are being asked to vacate the campus, the boys are being allowed to stay. There is massive gender discrimination. They say Corona doesn’t discriminate but this University is by putting the women in danger of catching the virus,” she argued.
If the students do argue with the authorities they are allegedly being told that the girl’s hostels need repair and thus they are being required to leave, “This is such an odd time for the administration to fix infrastructure. But even if it is true, we are only going to sit in our rooms, how are we going to cause any hassle. They also keep cursing us saying they can’t just prepare food for us, but even that we don’t mind. Just give us shelter, it’s the same case with the boy’s hostels too but they are being allowed to stay.” The student claim they find this excuse ridiculous apparently because the hostel only came up about a year ago.
“Now we have left because we had no choice and we are being forced to risk getting Corona. But that doesn’t mean that what happened was right, which is why it is essential that we get our voices heard and talk about the way we were harassed to leave,” another student said.
We’ve reached out to the University for a comment and will update the article when we receive it.