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PinjraTod : Break the cage



Basundhra Banerjee

“ Jugni Udi…Naye Naye par liye/ o Pinjra Khol, o Pinjra Khol “

That was the song from Queen where a girl did finally taste ‘newly found’ freedom and redefine the meaning of it. The same way, the girls in Delhi gathered for a movement called “Pinjra Tod”(literally break the cage) where an initiative : “ breaking the curfew hours or the hostel’s strict timeline for entry “ had taken place.On September 9th, around 50-60 women begin marching through some of DU’s premier colleges, just when the night started falling to “claim the streets” with their “dreams and desires”.

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 through social media and word-of-mouth, where women hostel and PG residents shared their bitter experiences with guards, wardens, principals and landlords.

We know Safety is a big word for Women in India, but come to Delhi and many of India’s colleges ,universities and workplaces (across the country ) to get the real picture of it. In the name of moral policing, some sexist practices are going on where the female students has been deprived of the basic facilities till late night.

“Big walls, huge metal gates, locking of gates at night, numerous security guards, constant checking of Id-cards, a plethora of arbitrary and regressive restrictions’. The idea is to raise our voices against it,” said Devangana Kalita, one of the founding members of Pinjra Tod:Break the Hostel Locks.

Other students vividly remember one bitter incident in the name of concerns and safety – “ 2 years back there was an earthquake, while we (the girls staying on the ground floor) were out, the girls who stayed in the upper floor were trapped inside as the gate was locked , so they ran towards the balcony and all we could do is to share our blank ,helpless glances towards each other ( apart from screaming for help ) “.

“Don’t go outside at night “ or “stay till midnight “ or “don’t wear shorts “ or “do take your male friend along with you while going “ are all the Delhi girls can relate with and even after the repetitive unfortunate incidents, what everyone’s concern is all about prohibition rather than protection or prevention and that saddened this whole section of society who need to avail the facilities like other part of the gender does.

For hostelites or for paying guest stayers it is even worse than we can imagine- they have to reach or enter the hostel premises or PG around 6.30 or 7.30 P.M , if not then there are strong chances that the particular individual can be expelled from either one of them.But why such discriminations ? – why only boys could avail the basic needs and amenities, that are meant for all (while there are strict rules and curfew time for boys also, but that till date remains in paper, those rules are not at all followed )?

So, with the Pinjra Tod movement they are trying to address four issues — unnecessary restrictions on women, moral policing in the name of concern, need for creation of more egalitarian and affordable spaces where women can stay, and proper implementation of anti-sexual harassment laws. If the environment is more enabling,then women don’t have to be caged at all. “State authorities have to stop acting like khap panchayats that seek to control and regulate the lives of young adult women in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘safety’,” added Kalita.

This group has been networking for a couple of months now and they had their first public hearing on October 10th . Universities from all over the country have spoken up in support of Pinjra Tod. Student political group, All India Students’ Association, (AISA) has also been seen handing out pamphlets of the Jan Sunwai to students in North Campus. Although the group welcomes all the support that’s coming their way, they have very clearly stated that they are independent of any political affiliations.

(Basundhra is a student of School of Media and Culture studies, TISS, Mumbai and is currently interning with The Sabha)

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