The recent protests by girls in Benares Hindu University, and the police crackdown on them, speaks volumes of the horrific tradition that Indian universities follow – that of locking women up ‘for their own safety’.
I once dated a girl from BHU for a while, and the stories of restrictions she narrated were horrific. Girl students must report back to their hostels by 6.30, walking with a man is frowned upon, wardens have to be informed for something as frivolous as collecting a parcel – it’s fucking ridiculous.
And this is true of campuses across the country. The one unifying factor of Indian higher education is the blanket of regressive rules and laws imposed on girls on campuses. These rules are set under flimsy pretences such as ‘avoiding indecency’, providing a ‘conducive atmosphere for studying’, and ‘avoiding distractions’. But if you scratch a little deeper, you’ll find all these reasons are a bunch of bullshit.
The restrictions are manifold.
In some universities, there are rules about dressing. If there are no uniforms prescribed, there are unwritten rules about students wearing jeans. Most colleges have separate seating for girls and boys, some even have restrictions on hanging out in the canteen together. Benares Hindu University, one of the oldest universities in the country, frowns upon a boy and a girl even walking together. As does Aligarh Muslim University. IIT Madras has rules regarding male-female interaction after certain hours of the day. In the IIT-churning coaching institutes in Andhra Pradesh, if you are caught speaking to a girl, a call is made to your parents!
In every university I visited in Gujarat, girls are locked up inside their hostels (sometimes as early as 7 PM). Boys are given an extension up to 9.30, after which a security guard takes over. The security guard is often the least qualified, yet wields the most power in such campuses.
I myself studied in a Boys’ Boarding school where even the attendants and cooks were male. Interaction with the other gender was considered a primal sin. It is only when I left the school did I realise how much of a misfit I was. I couldn’t speak to girls, developing cold feet, fumbling around for words, something that took me years to undo.
I have often wondered why we need such restrictions on our educational institutions. I have spoken to the wardens, guards, and students; and most of them have reconciled to the fact that this is how things should be. This is how things were 50 years ago, and there is no point changing such stuff.
It’s all deeply regressive.
Firstly, the most common excuse given is that such rules are enforced to avoid distractions for the students. Scratch a little deeper, and what they’re actually saying is that if they keep the two genders away from each other, they will probably concentrate on their studies better.
It’s sad that even after 70 years of independence, we still behave as if education happens only inside classes. But ask any great, any topper, and they’ll tell you that the real education that an institution offers, is what you gain from the atmosphere. From talking, interacting, discussing, and debating. But like most things in India, we have 60 year olds deciding what is right for 20 year olds, and then shoving their crap down their throats.
Also, look a little deeper, and you will find that interactions with the other gender are frowned upon because primarily, the Indian society sees two people of opposite genders capable of just one act – sex. I have seen guards on campuses walk up to couples and question them about their motive. For all you know, they might have been friends just talking about a movie. Or even youngsters who want to fuck each other – what is the big deal?
For all our evolved thinking and Vasudaiva Kutumbakam (Universe is One Family) logic, we haven’t evolved enough to assume that a boy and a girl could do anything else but fuck. That is how we think. And that is why we impose such rules.
Thirdly, segregation never works. It is a stupid, short-cut of an approach, enforced by idiots who have no clue how the real world in 21st century works. Look at the state of women in our country today. Strangely, as we continue to raise our voice against rapes and molestations, we refuse to look beyond the reason for such incidents.
It is not as if Indian men suddenly starting raping women on the streets. This is a culmination of decades of upbringing that told Indian men that women were different, were weaker.
Which is where education plays such a vital role. Education makes you look at the other person with respect. An education brings out qualities in people that go beyond their looks or gender. It brings in mutual respect, equality and trust. The more you segregate students on the basis of gender, you are simply enforcing existing ideas – that every guy is a threat, every girl is vulnerable.
It is sad that even after all these years, our elders haven’t woken up to the reality of the world. That their idea of education is still one dimensional – get a degree, get a job. Everything else is a distraction.
Even though we all know that it is regressive, nobody raises their voice. We go about our lives, hiding in dark places, scrambling for cover when the guard appears, a whistle in mouth, a stick in hand.
We continue to let ourselves be shepherded around. Like cattle that need to be driven to our homes. Ironically, we are a nation that celebrates Devi the goddess. We celebrate with friends and family, with relatives and children. And yet, in real life, we want our women to be locked up, protected, their wings clipped.
Even more ironically, the protests at BHU were against the molestations that took place on campus. In Modi’s constituency (Bhakts triggered! :D), students are lathi-charged when they protest sexual violence. It’s hilariously tragic. Dudes drive up to your campus and molest a few girls. The girls protest against this and get lathi-charged by the police in the night. Achhe din, achhe raat.
But don’t worry about that. We are getting Bullet trains, Demonetisation was a success, keep your women indoors, and link your Aadhar to PAN.
(Featured Image courtesy: NDTV)