Regional Institute of Education, Bhopal has witnessed several protests by the women students demanding removal of curfew timings, fair and equal treatment of both female and male students and acknowledgment of their autonomy and mobility. All this led the Pinjra Tod members of the college to write a letter to the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on her recent visit to the city on May 9. Sitharaman had gone for a discussion with women of Bhopal on empowerment and women-centric issues.

Letter To Nirmala Sitharaman

It was after the discussion with Sitharaman that the students wrote the letter highlighting the various issues they are dealing with. They raised a question against the token political representation of the women, while there is no freedom for women in general.

“As women students part of Pinjra Tod, Bhopal we ask you what does it take to indeed change the status quo of the powers that be?

Every time women students in any institution raise these basic demands they are first and foremost met with silencing, shaming and even disciplinary action and in the extreme case of BHU, a lathi-charge,” stated Pinjra Tod members of Bhopal in a Tweet thread.

RIE women students complained about the curfew timing which has still not been categorically removed but shifted to 8 p.m. from 6.30 p.m. in September after they staged protests in the campus. “We, RIE students have been protesting for the last one year and managed to only get the needle of the clock that chains our destiny to shift by two hours.”

Challenges Of Women Students

They also expressed their wish to access the library at all hours they cannot because of institution regulations. One of the students of RIE spoke to SheThePeople.TV on request of anonymity and said, “We have been continuously protesting since a year against the dictatorial conduct of the institute. We did it the last time when a student was asked to leave the hostel due to her mental illness. It was after much persuasion from the students and her father that she could get back in the hostel and the administration has said that if anything happens to her then her parents will be responsible for it. We have also protested against NCERT and the Delhi Pinjra Tod team staged a demonstration outside the NCERT office but they weren’t even allowed a hearing.”

“When we got to know that Nirmala Sitharaman is coming to our city, we thought that we must meet with her and tell her about our ordeal. She has studied from JNU and is our second woman defence minister. It gave us a lot of hope. While we went with a lot of hope, we weren’t satisfied with her responses to our questions of safety and security. She said that curfews are an institutional matter and it is okay as long as it is keeping the girls safe. She gave a lot of political answers and our interaction wasn’t as fruitful as we thought it would be. When we told her that MP isn’t a safe state for women, she said that it is not true as the entire country is safe. It felt like ministers have shut their eyes to our challenges,” she added.

“We know that restriction on our mobility is in direct conflict with our autonomy and is direct encouragement of those who commit public acts of sexual violence by making it appear as if women do not belong to the public space and must be punished when they venture into it,” they added in the thread.

When we got to know that Nirmala Sitharaman is coming to our city, we thought that we must meet with her and tell her about our ordeal. She has studied from JNU and is our second woman defence minister. It gave us a lot of hope. While we went with a lot of hope, we weren’t satisfied with her responses to our questions of safety and security.

Expect Long-Term Impact

On the expectations from this action, another student said, “We understand that our letter might not even reach her or even if it does there’s no guarantee that she will act on it but it will create a long-term ripple effect. We hope that our consistent efforts will result in better amenities for women students in the future. This will definitely create some impact as more students start to speak up and not take these arbitrary rules lying down.”

The students “wish to no longer participate in a culture that reproduces such regulation of bodies in order to preserve caste-class purity, marked by this kind of sexual anxiety”.

Picture credit: Pinjra Tod

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