Fight for round-the-clock hostel entry for girls at Punjabi University hots up

Patiala, October 10: Unrest prevails on the Punjabi University campus here over the girl students’ demand for round-the-clock entry in hostels. The varsity authorities and a section of students led by left-leaning unions are at loggerheads over the issue. Though the demand is not new, but the student unions have adopted an aggressive approach this time to build pressure on the ‘reluctant’ varsity authorities. On Sunday, the students held vice-chancellor Prof BS Ghuman and other senior officials ‘hostage’ for nearly five hours.

HT explains the issue, and the confrontation between varsity authorities and students thereof.
With boys having the privilege of round-the-clock entry into their hostels, girls have to report before 8pm. Latecomers invite a fine of Rs 100 per hour. The girls say that the university cannot curb their freedom in the name of security.

“What is the point of having discussions on women empowerment and gender equality when the girls are still being caged that too in a university,” students say. They demand that the university should create an open atmosphere through open hostels and library reading rooms where girls can study till late night hours. On varsity move to invite suggestions from their parents over the issue, students say “when the university authorities do not consult our parents before a fee hike or in other administrative decisions, why are they doing so in this case?”

The university has taken a strong stance over the demand of the student unions. In multiple meetings with the students, the university has maintained that it cannot allow round-the-clock entry in girls’ hostels as besides their security, there are several other factors involved in the matter. However, the university has offered to extend the hostel timings from 8pm to 9pm. The authorities have also suggested to invite students, officials and parents to discuss the issue.

Students under the banner of Democratic Students’ Organisation (DSO) started an indefinite protest outside vice-chancellor’s office on September 17. The protest turned violent on September 18 night and eight students were injured in a clash between members of DSO and Students Association of Punjab (SAP). On October 4, the protest intensified after the girl students broke the main gates of hostels and staged a late night protest outside V-C’s office. On October 7, the protesters barged into the university guest house, where the senior functionaries, including V-C professor BS Ghuman, were holding a meeting.

Students stand divided on the issue. Left-leaning student bodies are spearheading the protest, while other outfits are opposing them. The DSO has gathered support of All India Students Federation (AISF), Students Federation of India (SFI), Punjab Students’ Union (PSU) and others. On the other hand, SAP, Student Organisation of India (SOI), National Student Union of India (NSUI), Youth Organisation of India (YOI) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have extended their support to the university authorities. Even the varsity professors stand divided, as a few professors openly addressed protest rallies, while many are against the demand for open hostels.

The varsity authorities have fulfilled other demands, including implementation of the code of conduct in the administrative blocks, boards displaying fee structure for administrative works, empowering mess committees in girls’ hostels, holding orientation programmes for non-teaching employees to improve their skills in dealing with students and installation of lift in girls’ hostels.

Source Hindustan Times