#Opinion

Chandigarh Hostel MMS Leak: Is There Such A Thing As Safe Place For Women?

mms leak controversies in india
Yesterday, I woke up to a rather distressing news for a Sunday morning. A colleague sent across a video of massive protests being held by Chandigarh students demanding action on the alleged leak of objectionable videos from its girls’ hostel. The students alleged that videos of nearly 60 female students taking baths at the hostel were leaked.

The Chandigarh University administration today suspended the girls’ hostel warden Rajvinder Kaur for alleged misbehaviour with students and has shut the university for students till Saturday. Three people – a girl student and two men – have been arrested so far in the matter amid public outcry.

It has been nearly two years since the Bois Locker Room where a group of schoolboys from Delhi started an Instagram group chat to share non-consensual obscene images of women, many of whom were underage. The string of such incidents lead us to thinking perhaps not much has changed in the country when it comes to ensuring women’s safety and physical autonomy.

Chandigarh Hostel MMS Leak

In a viral video doing rounds of the internet, the Chandigarh hostel warden is seen confronting the arrested girl who has been accused of allegedly sending the videos to men outside the university. The warden reportedly didn’t inform police about the matter immediately. She also allegedly scolded the girls when they started the protest.

The university, in an official statement, has also said that no “objectionable video was made of any students except a personal video shot by a girl, which she shared with her boyfriend. All the rumors of objectionable videos shot of other girl students are totally false and baseless,” RS Bawa, Pro-Chancellor, Chandigarh University, had said.

The more I read about it, the more angrier I feel, to the point of being helpless. The video conjured up some not-so-good memories of my college years, living away from home and that too under a strict scrutiny.

I was 17 when I moved out of my small hometown for higher studies in Mumbai. I was immediately put up in a girls hostel, closer to the college campus, because my parents felt it to be a safe bet for a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. However, while the hostel was safely guarded with 24/7 monitored security cameras at the hostel gate, it was not a great experience I look back often from my early adulthood life.

We were constantly moral policed for our way of dressing, staying up late at nights in the hostel room, even talking loudly in the recreation area and so on. I was called twice to warden’s room because I was ‘seen sitting’ out on hostel stairs. It was at 7 pm, while the hostel curfew was at 10. Once I was asked to write an ‘apology letter’ for going out on a night out without seeking warden’s permission. Here she had conveniently forgot to check an email letter from my parents asking her to ‘grant me permission’ for a night out.  While I have acquired amazing lifelong friendships from my three years of stay there, it also scared me in a way for we weren’t really safe indoors too.

I cannot image how traumatic it must be for those the girls to find that the one place they thought to be a safe house, has turned into a carriage of barbarity. It is even more disheartening to see their voices being shut, withdrawn and set aside to nurture the institute’s reputation. We must never forget that victim-shaming, morality speeches, and bullying play a significant role in dissuading survivors from pursuing legal recourse. I realise now that the fact that I managed to survive my years at hostel was more to do with my privilege based on my family background and social status. I would turn to my parents to seek support every now and then when being chided by my warden. And I was heard every time. A large number of women coexist with us whose voices, opinions, and challenges are not highlighted enough. It is important. We need to hear the protestors, hear their story and serve them the justice they rightly deserve.


Suggested Reading: How Safe Are Women Inside Their Homes?