This article shows how the VKRV Hostel authorities used their legal might and power to turn out girls at 11 pm from the boys’ hostel on hostel night’13. This is a case of moral surveillance, sexism at its worst and arbitrary use of power.
22nd March 2013 was an eventful night in North campus. It is part of DU tradition that VKRV Hostel night is an event where the singing and dancing goes on well throughout the night, and for this night alone, women are allowed to stay in the hostel. So it came as a surprise to all, when suddenly, the Resident Tutor(RT) of VKRV issued a strange order at 10pm , that the doors of the hostel building were to be locked and women would no longer be permitted to use the rest room inside. Even before this, a guard or the RT himself tracked every women student going inside the hostel (moral surveillance). Lewd remarks were constantly being expressed by the authority. The guests demanded some arrangements be made for women to use the restroom. At 11:30pm came the next strange order that all the women guests were to leave the premises immediately. Since this was issued without prior notice or warning, and since it was usually a practice that women could stay over on this night, students were shocked, and expressed displeasure at such an inconsiderate announcement. Paradoxically, women’s ‘safety’ was suggested as the reason, though the moral outrage of the authority was apparent for all to see. When questioned about how safe the women will be if they are forced to leave the hostel premises at the midnight, the RT calmly stated that outside the hostel premises, their safety is not under the jurisdiction of the hostel authorities. The students, outraged by all this (not to mention some extremely crude remarks made by the RT about girls dancing in the hostel), refused to leave the premises and sat down in protest. The police were summoned. Since no policewoman was present, the women couldn’t be evicted. Seeing that the situation was fairly innocuous, that no trace of violent behavior was afoot, the police left the premises, stating there was no law and order violation happening. The deputy proctor was summoned, and finally the students agreed to leave the premises, but stay right outside the gates. 2 constables were left behind as ‘nominal’ security. Among the students forced outside were women who stayed more than 15km away from campus. This wasn’t the end of it. The protesting students were targeted, notices were dispatched to the girls’ houses with completely unsubstantiated accusations of drunkenness and violent conduct. The blatant disregard for student safety and welfare of the authority gave way to an almost malicious backlash on those who stood up against the RT’s crude behavior. The boys from VKRV were charged with violent behavior and puzzlingly, for violating the Civil liberties act of 1972 (a minority rights act). This was a cheap ploy, charging them with insulting/assaulting a person from a minoritarian community. Anyone present there could have attested to the absolute baselessness of these claims. The authorities kept charging the students with one notice after another, with copies being freely sent to parents, as threats. This cheap behavior completely glossed over the actual issue – Why would the RT evict women from a hostel campus suddenly, without warning at 11.30 pm? Even by VKRV rules, women are required to leave by 8pm, so given that it was hostel night, and given that women weren’t asked to leave at 8, it was believed that women will be provided with the option to stay in the hostel premises, as has been the practice in years past. And when a few students did stand up and question this, the authority came down upon them with its full legal might, humiliating and threatening the students every step of the way. We need more solidarity among the students community to stand up against authoritarian brutality – the students ultimately were ‘advised’ to leave the hostel and denied admission for the forthcoming year. Furthermore they were banned from entering the VKRV premises. The ban still stands.