It’s Holi time! Harassment and bullying returns every year with festival. Women are subject to molestation, misbehaviour during this ‘auspicious’ festival in the garb of ‘bura na mano holi hai.’ While society thinks of Holi as the festival of fun and frolic, it is the women who remain concerned about their safety and often force themselves to stay indoors to avoid the hooliganism. The fun and frolic is limited to men who roam free, enjoy, dance, drink and even fling semen-filled balloons. There have been a spate of complaints from women that they have been attacked by balloons streets.

Only if these balloons were just plain water. No! They went from semen to pee todrain water, coloured water and onwards. Women from Delhi University told SheThePeople.TV they were angry that their spaces were being attacked. Yes, men in the North and South DU campus are throwing these balloons on women visiting market areas, stepping out of college or any public places. Any one in their sane mind would ask – what’s this bizarre practice? It defies all logic and rationality. How low can we go?

Recently, we came across two cases where girls from Lady Shree Ram College reported that they were hit by semen-filled balloons. Media reports say that one of the college girls has reported it to the police but the Amar Colony Police has not lodged a complaint in this regard.

All India Student Association (AISA) head and Law Faculty student, Kawalpreet Kaur, told us that on Wednesday (Feb 28) somebody threw two water-filled balloons at her while she was walking from college. “I felt wet because of it and now I’ve fallen sick. So I think it is about routine harassment that people think that they can do in the name of a festival and normalize harassment through it.”

“If somebody really wants to play Holi, they should ask for my consent. And it is also about somebody infringing into my private space,” said Kawalpreet.

SAME STORY FOR WOMEN STUDENTS AND PROFESSORS

“Every year by the time Holi arrives, a month before we are already fearing how to go about travelling normally on the streets like we do the rest of the year. Yesterday when I went for my lecture on my way, I constantly feared what if outside the metro, boys are there and they throw balloons at me. It is not the girls who are doing these things but the boys.”

Political Science Professor at Delhi University’s Miranda House college Ngurang Reena told us that last year somebody threw a piss-filled balloon at her.

This is the state we’re living in where it is not just girl students but even professors face similar incidents. Reena is originally from Arunachal Pradesh and hence a North Eastern woman living in Delhi for the last nine years.

She says, “Every year by the time Holi arrives, a month before we are already fearing how to go about travelling normally on the streets like we do rest of the year. Yesterday, when I went for my lecture on my way, I constantly feared what if outside the metro, boys are there and they throw balloons at me. It is not the girls who are doing these things but the boys.”

Reena told us how a group of school boys followed her last year and indulged in name-calling while she was walking from the metro station to her college. On the way, one of them even threw a stone at her.

ALSO READ: Semen-flinging! Worst Level of Holi Hooliganism Delhi Has Witnessed

EVERY HOLI STORY 

Pinjra Tod is one organisation that advocates safety for college-going women. It organises protest marches and sensitization initiatives to make people aware about how unsafe it becomes for women to access public places. One of its activists, Shambhawi, told us, “These things happen every year where men throw water at women from the top floor of their houses. They do it very deliberately and target certain parts of a woman’s body like their chest, waist and hips. So it becomes very traumatizing and more so for women from North Eastern states. They also target women who they have noticed in the past. All this bullying begins around 10 days before Holi.

It is not just that they are sexualising women in a certain way, but also it really hurts when balloons hit you thrown from the third floor of a building.”

She added, “While this semen-filled balloon flinging caught media interest this year, we have heard these incidents for a couple of years now.”

What happened to safe spaces? And what happened to the public dialogue about ensuring that women are not the ones who need to go into hiding? Does half the country’s population not deserve to celebrate festivals just as freely as the other half? It is frustrating to constantly think about ways to travel and not get sexually harassed. This calculation multiplies to a thousand times when it is Holi season as someone or the other will try to invade our space in the name of a festival. And what is even more disturbing is the attitude where everyone normalizes bullying and sexual harassment in the name of “Bura Na Maano Holi Hai”, Why?

HOSTEL CLOSES

There are no rules that say women students of DU should stay indoors in their hostels or PGs. However, all efforts are made in the interest of “women’s safety”. This means they stay inside and don’t go out to play Holi.

“Many hostels like Miranda House etc. have for many years closed the gates down on the day of Holi, so a woman cannot leave hostel premises. If women have to go out, then they will have to leave one day before Holi and come back after Holi.”

Shambhawi goes on to tell us how hostel authorities actually lock women inside on the day of Holi. “Many hostels like Miranda House etc. have for many years close the gates down on the day of Holi, so a woman cannot leave hostel premises. If women have to go out then they will have to leave one day before Holi and come back after Holi.” Basically, the college does not want to take responsibility of any harassment that women go through. She also said that while the college will recognise that it is harassment, it won’t do anything about it.

Another activist from Pinjra Tod, Divyangana said how this lockdown also happens in Girl PGs that students live in during their term of studies in DU. “When women raise their voice then the option that college or PG owners give is that they increase curfew hours and lockdowns. So if today and tomorrow is Holi, then on both days the PG owners lock up women.”

Divyangana told us that Pinjra Tod does not believe in asking the police to increase security and surveillance on roads. “Because we know what kind of the structure police system is. If a girl goes to the police to report any kind of harassment, then they moral police us. Then they do absolutely unacceptable things like clear the street vendors from roads as though they are the people who commit sexual violence. They do nothing against men who roam on bikes and SUVs and throw balloons from their three-storeyed mansions,” she said.

Picture credit- Campus Diaries

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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