Pinjra Tod: Delhi Women's Feminist Response To Sexist Graffiti And Hostel Authorities - Homegrown

Pinjra Tod: Delhi Women's Feminist Response To Sexist Graffiti And Hostel Authorities

Locking girls inside homes to protect them is a fallacious idea at best. When authorities act on the idea and begin questioning the character of a girl based on the time a clock shows, you know you have regressed from the 21st century. Fighting against such gender discrimination and curbs on the freedom of women’s movement and autonomy, the Pinjra Tod initiative to break the hostel locks has gained momentum in Delhi.
When Delhi was hit by an Earthquake, Shambhawi Vikram along with her peers in the PG accommodation couldn’t exit their building because of the hostel rules. “The warden had locked the mess and we weren’t able to get out. Since many students don’t find accommodation in university hostels, they opt for private accomodations but the moral policing, the gender discrimination and threats to call parents or if you question authority are all pretty common,” said the 25-year-old JNU student who is also one of the first people to join the movement.Shambhavi and other students gathered in August last year to talk about the notice sent by Jamia Millia Islamia University cancelling all night outs and the curfew set at 8 p.m. The Delhi Commission for Women had sent the university another notice questioning the same. “Around 30 of us gathered to talk about the DCW notice and our experiences. We wrote a petition about the charter of our demands, made a facebook page, organized ourselves and campaigned about the same. It exploded after that,” she said.
According to her, currently the Pinjra Tod Whatsapp group has 250 members from the Delhi University colleges like JNU, Ambedkar College, Jamia Millia Islamia, National Law University and other colleges from the North and South campus. They see some 300 to 500 people on their night marches and vigils where they reclaim their spaces. “The same streets where we are harassed, we reclaim them by coming together and command the space,” she said. According to the facebook page of Pinjra Tod (Break the cage), “#pinjratod is a collective effort by women students and alumni across colleges and hostels in Delhi, that seeks to discuss, debate, share, mobilise and collectivise struggles against restrictive and regressive hostel regulations and moral policing by hostel authorities; and as well as demand access to safe and affordable hostel accommodation and pro-active functioning of Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee Cells.”
“When we confront the authorities we get hostile treatment and threats. They say we are asking for too much, we are demanding, we are characterless and loose women but we have seen the change. We try to negotiate the authorities and we can see how women peek through their windows and join us from their hostels, they also get locked in and wardens draw the curtain or lock them. We feel liberated by climbing the gates, screaming slogans and collectivising ourselves and be strongly committed to our politics. ABVP tried to intimidate us, tore our posters and created a hostile environment for us. We filed an FIR against them. Politics is not just their domain. We seek Azaadi in politics too,” Shambhavi said. They have sent out notices, written open letters and are organizing meetings but haven’t planned a big event yet.
The much publicized graffiti art doing the rounds of media have their own interesting story to tell. A student from Ambedkar University where the graffiti has been made said that it didn’t begin as a Pinjra Tod movement. “We were talking about Azaad Kashmir and the people who have died in Bastar and the Kashmir Valley through the college walls. It was swiftly whitewashed thanks to the college authorities. We tried to talk about it again but some other students took advantage of it and wrote things like Gender studies is a waste of time, Save men and boys from feminism or become a vegan," she said.The first response came from the students of gender studies who posted their time tables and a poster of what gender means for them and if they want we can have a dialogue about the same. “But they were torn off and we received spray painted messages asking us to get married or get laid. We made a collective decision which our teachers were aware of. If they can get away with these childish messages, we had to give it back. We had done posters and spray painting for other activities before so we took it up here. We wrote the ‘Azaad Bekauf Awara Aurtein’ slogan, ‘ If you sexist us, we feminist you' and ‘Save boys from patriarchy’ to name a few,” she said.For the students, graffiti became a symbol of resistance. “Let it get ugly. We are ready to face the consequences. It has already gone out of control. We are expecting shitty responses but since the campus is shut for a week, nothing has happened. Some of us are a part of the Pinjra Tod movement and they posted these images on facebook where it got more exposure. I am a part of the collective and have faced the discrimination. We have to pay so much to live in private accommodation but it is as restrictive. In my PG we had CCTV cameras to record our movements, entry and exit timings, rules to not wear short clothes, take wardens written permission to go out or stay out at night, parents approval for trivial things and constantly proving our ‘good girl’ reputation to maintain the elitist image of these accommodation. They act like family but leave you to fend for yourself when you actually need them,” she said on the condition of anonymity.
When the act of walking on the road at 11 p.m is an act of rebellion, it is time to break the cage, climb the walls and take the freedom for yourself.
Read more about the movement here and here.

Feature Image Courtesy: Indian Express

Words: Preksha Malu

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