Published: 21st September 2022
With what happened at Chandigarh University, IIT Bombay, issue of 'safety' of girl students in hostels flares up
IIT Bombay and Chandigarh University were the epicentres of student agitations over the safety of girl students being compromised inside the hostels
In the aftermath of an incident on Sunday, September 18, where an employee of a girls' hostel in IIT Bombay snuck up the building and tried to peep into the washroom, the students of IIT Bombay have been advised by the administration to refrain from speaking to the media, and from spreading "false news" in connection with the incident.
The news came to light on Sunday evening, when one of the students noticed the alleged culprit peeping through the window. As per a statement by IIT Bombay, the man, who was a worker in the hostel canteen had climbed up the pipe duct to access the bathroom window. He was caught and subsequently arrested by the police.
While initial reports claimed that the culprit had recorded a video of a student, IIT Bombay, in its statement clarified that no such content was found on his phone and further forensic analysis is being carried out.
What does IIT Bombay say?
When EdexLive reached out to IIT Bombay for a statement, an official said that steps are being taken to ensure such an incident is not repeated. "The canteen has been shut down immediately and will reopen, only if staffed exclusively by women. Gaps in the ducts, which may have been used by the suspects, have been closed. We are in discussions with the students to see what other additional steps we can take. IIT Bombay stands with its students and we will do everything in our capacity to ensure the safety and security of our students," said the official.
In an email sent to the students, seen by EdexLive, the institute goes on to say that false information had been shared about the incident in a media report. To prevent the spread of incorrect news, the institute said, "While students have full freedom of speech, we request students from talking with the press, particularly when it involves the safety and privacy of campus residents, to minimise the chances of wrong information spreading."
The institute also says that it "stands with the students" and will take all measures in the interest of the safety and security of the students.
Students are not convinced
However, the students don't seem convinced by these measures. "They're trying to stifle us and impose stricter rules like completely shutting down the night canteen. After the incident, when the deans visited, they questioned why the male guest entry timings were extended. That was unnecessary and not related," a student from the hostel impacted by the incident, told EdexLive.
The institute is also working on installing CCTV cameras on the hostel premises, as per sources. "Their go-to move is to impose more restrictions on girls, install more CCTV cameras and impose more surveillance in the name of 'safety'," adds another student of IIT Bombay, requesting to remain anonymous.
The students are also miffed about the fact that there seems to be a lack of sensitivity in the institute's approach to this matter. "The gender cell of the institute has not said a single word on this issue. Not one of the administrative positions is held by a woman. All the deans and the director are all men," the student states.
Not an isolated incident
The last few weeks have seen a spate of such untoward incidents impacting hostels in some premier colleges and universities across the country. Take the case of Chandigarh University, where an investigation into a girl allegedly filming her hostel mates bathing and sharing the alleged videos with men, is currently underway. While the university claims that the girl only filmed herself, the students were adamant in their stance that she had filmed multiple other students. They embarked on a massive protest inside the campus on September 18, following which, the university declared a holiday until September 24.
When we asked a student about the measures that the university has in place to ensure the safety of women, she said, "We cannot step outside hostel premises after 7.00 pm unless there's an event inside the campus. On weekdays we are not allowed to leave the college campus. On weekends we are allowed day-outs only twice a month. However, if we have to go out more than twice a month on weekends, we have to seek permission from our parents, which is absurd given I'm a 24-year-old who can take care of herself. On the other hand, men can roam inside campus till 9.30 pm."
These restrictions seem to be causing more than just minor inconvenience to the students. For instance, this student claims that the WiFi connectivity in her hostel is unreliable. It sometimes does not work for 12 hours at a stretch and the mobile network in the area is sketchy as well. "And since we are not allowed to leave the hostel, even to go to the library after 7.00 pm, it leaves us in an extremely difficult position, since we need to work on projects and assignments that require the internet," the student adds.
The student questioned why adult women were being forced inside their hostels early for their "protection". "The fact that you don't let women even hang out inside campus where you've only your students and your staff is enough to let us know that you know men on your campus are potential predators. We see this," wrote a student of CU on Twitter, suggesting if it is 'safety' that the university wants to ensure, then men should be asked to stay inside after 7.00 pm for three days a week instead of women.
In light of the protests this week, the university, according to sources, has promised to increase the curfew timings of the girls' hostels up to 9.30 pm as well.
And absurd seems to have always been the way women students in educational institutions view these restrictions.
More such instances
In 2018, Jamia Millia Islamia had been forced to extend its curfew timings up until 10.30 pm after massive protests from students. However, just a few months later, when the dust settled, the university sent a diktat to the students, reinstating the curfew at 9.00 pm, and making them sign an undertaking, which said that students will not challenge the hostel timings in any signature campaigns or protests, and if found indulging in them, their accommodation at the hostel will be cancelled immediately.
A former student at Jamia told EdexLive that they had to take their parents' permission to stay out and claims that girl students were not given extra bread or eggs in the hostel mess — a restriction that did not apply to boys. "We were judged by the length of our clothes by the university's professors. The whole thing was absurd," she said.