Breaking the Pinjra: Jamia University Women Hostellers Protest to Assert Their Demands

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Hundreds of women students residing in Jammu and Kashmir (JK) hostel of Jamia Milia Islamia came together last night to protest against the indifferent attitude of the hostel administration to their demand of installing coolers in their hostel in the scorching Delhi heat. “We gathered in the lawn at 10.30 PM to raise our voice against this indifferent attitude of college authorities but the warden didn’t even come out to listen. So, we went ahead and broke through the university gates and protested the entire night. At 1, we marched across and also blocked the gate till morning. We were almost around 500-700 women marching,” said Misbah Haqani, a student of JMI and resident of JK hostel.

This is not the first time that the students have been incessantly urging the administration to install coolers. "They were supposed to put up a notice regarding the coolers last evening but they didn't. They have been dodging us. So, we assembled in the lawn yesterday and decided that we won't mark attendance at the assigned time that is 10:30 PM to show our protest," Babrah Naikoo, who is also a resident of the same hostel, told Newsclick. Another student wishing anonymity said, "The administration is totally corrupt. They have provided AC to the warden and teachers, while the students are not even given coolers."

"They said the electricity won't be able to take the load of coolers and it will trip. So, we students came up with a suggestion to get alternative wiring done on each floor. But they dismissed it. There are coolers in other hostels but only our JK hostel is lacking this facility. This hostel has students from various parts of India not just Jammu and Kashmir," said Misbah.

Meanwhile, the students had a meeting with the Vice-chancellor where they were ensured that their demands will be met. "The protest was a build up of 2 months of insistence to install coolers. I just came out of the meeting with Vice-chancellor, registrar and warden, and they have ensured that our demands will be met. Let's see if nothing happens in 2-3 days, we will intensify our protest. We have not yet decided upon it but it depends on how they fulfil the assurances they made," said another student Arshie Qureshi.

Not Just Coolers – Food and Wifi Problematic Too

Its not just coolers that students are demanding for. Students say that the hostel lacks WiFi facility and the food they are provided is substandard. "Yes, the demand for coolers is an immediate and urgent one. But we have been asking for WiFi, to which they have not responded yet. Even the food they provide us is of very low quality. We have complained multiple times but to no avail. Also, the menu of the boys hostel and girl hostel is different."

While recalling an episode from the hostel mess, Babrah said, "Recently, we were fasting and the mess people knew about this. But what they did agitated us. They gave us one milk packet of one liter and asked us to share between four. Can you believe that? Now, in the coming days of Ramzan, I don't know what are they going to do."

Restrictions on Movement of Female Students

Students also shared various instances when restrictions were imposed on women students with Newsclick. Misbah said, "Hostel conduct rules were put out recently which included that girls should be properly dressed while going to the mess or walking in the lawn. We see these rules as a way to control the female body, mobility and to control their sexuality. And when we asked them what do they mean by properly dressed, they had no answer."

Babrah added,"We have to mark our attendance at 10.30 PM after which we can't even go out for walk in the hostel lawns. What kind of restriction is that? Why are they trying to control us?"