Pinjra Tod: Fighting for Freedom in a Free Country

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Pinjra Tod

In a country far beyond the expanse of human intelligence and ability, there was a time it was
free like never after that. India- today one of the unsafe, unskilled, uneducated places on the
planet has hit the rock bottom and been digging beyond since then.
This is reflective from the condition of the women of India at present. The immemorial false
sense of patriarchal society we have evolved ours to be as seems never-ending. One such
conventionalist policy of the Indian society is evident from the modern day “implied” regulation of women in India.

This regulation by the self proclaimed Protectorate society for women clearly depicts the plight of the females of this free country- the largest democracy of the world. In a country where its Constitution provides for everyone the right to freedom as the most fundamental requirements for a human for being, the imposition of such rules made by the society itself by the name of moral policing only for women is why exactly “boys have all the fun.”

I don’t know if the society has accepted the fact that the male population is born so
disciplined that it is beyond any such restrictive regulation of the society, or society as a whole, just like women have been defeated by patriarchy. Out of the innumerable fights against this male domination being masqueraded as protectionism by the braves, one such fight is the Pinjra Tod campaign, which is Hindi for “Break the Cage”.

pinjra tod

It began when the Jamia Milia Islamia University issued a notice that the female students could not stay outside hostels post 8PM. This was followed by a response from the Delhi Commissionfor Women (DCW), seeking answers from the Jamia Islamia administration on  why it found it necessary to impose such a restriction on women.

When a group of women students got to know about the DCW’s response to the notice, they saw this as a beginning for making larger interventions at the level of not just Jamia but also other Universities across the capital city, Delhi. They decided to circulate a petition to spread the sermon which was sparked off by the Jamia incident to initiate a discussion around questioning the justice and equality-violative policies the Universities adopt.

Pinjra Tod

The Pinjra Tod campaign has been successful to bring before the masses the ground reality around several issues faced by female residents of hostels and PGs such as curfew hours, policies that are more women-restrictive being presented as women-centric, moral policing, high prices for women hostels, among others. It is also focused on ensuring that universities establish a sexual harassment committee, as mandated by University Grant Commission (UGC) guidelines in 2006.

Over time, this campaign has far-reaching effect to which female students and workers
living in hostels are relating themselves in large numbers. From Delhi to Patiala, Chandigarh,
Thiruvananthapuram, Darjeeling and to every soul that feels caged. This is not just another feminazi rant as some might conclusively say by reading the first two lines. Pinjra Tod campaign is itself not only limited to gender based discrimination alone, but also to caste and class based discrimination also.

 

Even if some might see it as a rant for women deserving equal rights in the society, and how society keeps on beating the idea of women being free; I must say you’re free to see it anyway but in the end, it only depicts one thing—It’s not about what we want, and definitely not about what we deserve but what’s fair.

I shall not say that there must curfew hours even for men; it outright defeats the purpose of
freedom. But since men don’t have such restrictions so should not the women. They too should be considered wise and sane and able enough as grown adults who can take their own decisions and feel free to do so. Or maybe men go crazy-o- merry as night starts to dawn that they lose all senses and make the nights “unsafe” for women. Well if this is the hidden reality, then it’s certainly not the women who need to be caged.

pinjra tod

What is the use of such safety as offered by the hostels at one’s cost of freedom, sanity and decision-making choice. Is it not better to be out there on the unsafe roads of the night reclaiming the spaces that are one deprived of? Just as they say, when structures become shackles, that’s exactly when you should break them through.

Try thinking a bit logically about this. If the female to male ratio at night will be the same, why
would there be any danger to women? That’s a fair reason for women not being caged in the
same of protection. Now we know how patriarchy has blinded and fooled our society as a
whole.

I am a student of the Panjab University, Chandigarh. I have witnessed how this campaign and its demands were politicized. The prominent political backed student parties did not see the Pinjra Tod campaign being worthy enough to be a part of their manifesto during the last Panjab University Campus Students Council (PUCSC) elections. It was left to the leftist campus bodies to carry forward. In an open house discussion, the party members from all contesting bodies that took part in the discussion agreed that the gender discrimination existed in Panjab University in the form of different hostel rules for girls. They had agreed to hold a joint meeting of the representatives of all student bodies later and a memorandum being presented to the Vice Chancellor in that regard.

pinjra tod

But neither did the “hotshot top-notch” parties show up, nor did the memorandum become a
reality. Pinjra Tod itself stands broken and disintegrated in the University.

It is to pay attention that not only do the students make part of an educational institution, but their able guides- the teachers too. Why all such campaigns are usually short lived is because most students of every batch would be campaigning till the time they were students. It was the duty of the teachers who would sustain the campaigns, by providing the history to the future students, introduce the context and thus eventually continue it. But Pinjra Tod has spread to other institutions because of their sense of a feminist collective that can be replicated. Their core team intends the movement to be issue-centric and not leadership-driven that’s why there is not such leader-affiance to it.

Finishing off, I must say, ‘Good girls break the norms, and “good” girls ask the questions’. There shall not be a fear of the dark if one carries the light of freedom within.

-Tanmay Dhiman

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