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Exclusive: ‘Identify You As Girls Before Students’, ‘You Have Recently Learnt About Gender Equality’: Here’s Why RGNUL Students Are Protesting

The university administrator accused of sexism told NC24x7, “Girls have certain vulnerabilities.”

“Ye gender equality ka chashma utaaro” (stop talking about gender equality), “Identify you as girls before as students”, “Ladke kuch bhi kare koi farak nahi padta“(boys can do whatever they want).

“He made these comments very often and we have it in record,” Rahul Verma*, an eighth-semester student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala, told NewsCentral24x7. Verma is referring to the Administrative Officer of the university, (Retd.) Captain SP Singh.

Such rampant sexism is the main reason why students of one of the premier universities in Punjab are protesting against the administration since March 15. Speaking to NewsCentral24x7 on condition of anonymity, several students claim that Singh never lets go of the opportunity to “spew sexist remarks”.

“I have personally been subject to his sexist remarks. What the students are doing is absolutely correct. This should have been done earlier,” Aditi Mehta*, an alumnus who graduated in 2017, told NewsCentral24x7.

At present, the University has sent Singh on leave until further orders. The students are demanding his removal and a formal inquiry against the multiple instances, which remain orally and electronically documented, of the administrative officer making sexually-coloured remarks and violating the dignity of female students of RGNUL.

Singh defended himself saying people are getting confused between “sexist” and “sexual”. “Sexist means undermining the qualities of a gender, particularly the female gender. Gender is a biological thing. That is a biological fact. Girls have certain vulnerabilities. As an administrator, if I tell my girl students, please don’t remain outside the university, I’m concerned about their safety and security,” Singh told NewsCentral24x7, adding, “There are many areas in which girls outperform boys, for instance, every year in the academic performance, we see. However, they (female students) mix things. They say why boys are also not told the same things about the hostel timings. There are restrictions and discipline for them too. They have recently learnt about gender equality and all that and confuse the two.” Further, he claimed that he is currently on leave as instructed by the University authorities.

Also Read:  Women In Punjabi University Have Broken Not Just Their Hostel Gates, But Patriarchy’s Back

On March 18, the students wrote to Punjab Human Rights Commission, underlining that Singh has developed a misogynistic culture on the campus, and explained why it was important for the University to remove him.

In the letter, the students also pointed out that the hostel in-timings are officially the same for both boys and girls but boys can enter the hostel even after 9 pm and use the library until 1 am while girls can avail the library facility till 9 pm only as they have to enter the hostel by 9 pm. Further, girls are also not allowed to go to other blocks after 11 pm (there are four blocks in the girls’ hostel). The protesters want the University to change the discriminatory hostel in-time restrictions.

Punjab State High Commission (1)-compressed

“As per the University, a committee will be constituted by the Chancellor (Krishna Murari) in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor (Paramjit Singh Jaswal) and they will then decide the fate of this request,” Verma said.

Timeline of the Protests

March 13: Students had banged their plates in the boys’ hostel mess in protest against the unhygienic and sub-standard food served on the campus.

March 15: A committee of four members comprising of faculty members, hostel wardens Vipan Kumar, Honey Kumar, chief warden Anand Pawar, and Administrative Officer Captain (Retd.) SP Singh ordered the suspension of six students of the fourth semester citing “indiscipline” and “hooliganism”, protesters told NewsCentral24x7. 

“There were other students in the mess who had also banged their plates. Why were only these six suspended? The decision was taken arbitrarily,” sixth-semester student Saurav Gupta* told NewsCentral24x7.  Moreover, he pointed out that Regulation 11(2) of the RGNUL (Discipline amongst students) Regulations, 2015, states that the power to suspend students only lies with the Vice-Chancellor. In this case, this rule was not followed.

Another student Akash Patil* told News Central24x7 that the committee members violated the privacy of a student by checking his phone. “When the committee called the students on Friday, one of them was asked to hand over his phone, and they checked his WhatsApp messages. When he protested, Vipan Kumar remarked ‘Privacy ki tatti, ab tu mujhe privacy sikhayega? (To hell with privacy, now you will teach me what privacy is?)’,” Patil said.

One of the demands of the students is the official revocation of the suspension order.

Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law

March 16: The students continued their protest and slept on the main road, outside the University campus.  They listed four demands: 1) Revocation of the suspension order issued against the six students; 2) Formal inquiry into the conduct of the administrative officer and his removal as a punitive measure; 3) Formalisation of the student council; 4) Thorough review/repeal of discriminatory practices like different library timings for girls and boys.

March 16 Students letter-compressed

March 17: In an unsigned letter, the administration said that the suspension of the students has been revoked, SP Singh will go on leave with immediate effect till further orders, the university has no objection to have elected student body as per law and decision regarding in timing will be taken by a committee.

The students called the letter a “joke” as it was not even signed by the Registrar and the date was not mentioned.

Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law

The protests then escalated and the students decided to boycott mid-semester exams till the University administration does not give them a written assurance and accept their demands.

Slamming VC Paramjit Singh Jaswal, Saurav Gupta* said, “The VC continuously keeps changing his statements. Sometimes he says I’ll accept your demands if you call off your protest and at other times he says he doesn’t have the authority,” adding, “What was the need to release an unsigned letter? Why did he suddenly bring the Registrar in the picture? All these are neither official orders nor formal assurances. We can’t trust them.”

Further, several students underlined that in the letter, the administration mentioned elections are banned in Punjab with respect to their student council demand; while Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, had reportedly announced that student union elections were now legal in institutions across the state.

March 18: Mid-semester exams started as per schedule. As per reports, there are over 700 students in the University. Except for the tenth-semester students and a few others who are obliged to take the examination due to scholarships and other issues, no student of the university wrote the exam. They continued their protest.

March 19: The students have written to the National Commission for Women. The NCW is rumoured to visit the RGNUL campus tomorrow, a student said.

Rapid Action Force (RAF) on Campus

The Rapid Action Force (RAF) and police personnel were called to the campus as the students sat outside the administrative block throughout the day on Monday. Bar & Bench reported that the RAF was seen carrying heavy ammunition into the campus.

Other Developments

1) The suspension of the students has been now conditionally revoked — several students of the university informed NewsCentral24x7. It is, however, not clear what are the conditions on the basis of which the suspension has been revoked.

2) As per a Times of India report on published March 18, Vice-chancellor Paramjit Singh Jaswal said: “A three-member bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court had clearly maintained that the suspension of the students will be revoked automatically if they end their strike”. Commenting on the report, Rahul Verma* said, “This is a false report. A bench is formed when a matter reaches court. Maybe what he wants to say is that three judges, including Punjab and Haryana High Court Judges HS Sethi and Ravi Ranjan, were present in the campus on Friday. They were not a part of any committee.”

3) In a press release on March 18, the university claimed that the students never raised the complaints verbally or in writing to the wardens, the chief warden, the registrar or the Vice-Chancellor about the mess food or other issues till March 13.

The students refute this claim, and say that they have raised these issues on multiple occasions in the past and have even submitted written requests to the administration.

Mess complaint-compressed

4) Students from universities across the country have extended support to the protesting students at RGNUL.

In the last few years, student protests have erupted in colleges across the country over the issues of sexual harassment and discriminatory hostel timing of boys and girls.  Protests at prestigious institutions such as Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University and Punjabi University have sparked nation-wide conversation on these issues.

Last week, the Kerala High Court quashed such discriminatory restrictions imposed by a Thrissur college. The court, observing that girls have the same freedom as enjoyed by boys, held that any restrictions in this regard are a violation of fundamental rights.

 *Name changed to protect identity.

Also Read:  Demanding Curfew-less Nights For Women’s Hostels, DU Students To Protest Again

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