Protesting students at the Patiala-based Punjabi University finally have a reason to smile. “We are very relieved, finally our efforts have paid off” said a jubilant Gurmeet Romana as the university administration finally succumbed to the pressure by the students and consistent protests that had gripped the university for nearly a month now.
The university administration on October 12, issued a letter stating that the unfair hostel curfew for the female students will now be relaxed to 10 p.m, previously it was 8 p.m. The administration also extended the timings of the access to the library to 11 p.m for both male and female students.
In a welcome move for the students, the administration has also shown flexibility in the timings and the procedure with which the female students could leave the hostel. Romana said, “Previously the women had to go through a strenuous, often humiliating process of seeking permission to go outside of the hostel. “ Now a simple message to the hostel warden would be enough to stay outside the premises.
The students had to fight a long battle against not just the administration but also face violence at the hands of the Student’s Association of Punjab (SAP) to finally achieve these results. Additionally, the female students living in apartments on the campus will be treated as independent residents, free from the surveillance and control of the administration. Speaking to NewsClick, Pooja said, “We are very happy that the demands have been accepted by the administration and our struggle has resulted in a positive change, however, we must not forget the violence we had to face at the hands of the goons of SAP, a committee must be formed to look into this.”
Adding to this, Amrit, a student, said, “The university had previously agreed to 12 of our demands, which were primarily administrative concerns. Currently, the curfew timings have been relaxed and a degree of flexibility has been achieved, but the struggle for a curfew free hostel must continue.”
In the last lap of the protests, the students resorted to measures as hunger strikes, gheraoing the VC’s office to build immense pressure on the university administration.
The protests initially started on September 18, were spearheaded by the Left-leaning Democratic Students’ Organisation, and supported by five other Left student bodies, including Punjab Students’ Union (PSU), PSU Lalkaar, All India Students Federation (AISF), Students Federation of India (SFI) and Punjab Radical Students Union (PRSU). At that point, Over 70 students participated in the march, wherein the cases of reported eve teasing and hurling of abuses at the women protestors by the Students’ Association of Punjab (SAP) brought the issue to the fore.
As the protests intensified, to reprimand the female students, the administration resorted to filming and identifying the female students, and calling up their parents to complain about them. The students in a massive show of strength, fought a united battle to ensure that gender justice prevails.