Beyond BHU: Women Students Struggle for Fair Deal in DU’s Hindu College
For 117 years of its 118-year history, Hindu College did not have a functional hostel for women, forcing them to rent out apartments in areas close by.
File photo of the Hindu College. (Photo: Facebook/ Hindu College, University of Delhi)
New Delhi: The lathi charge against women students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has highlighted the issues facing women students in the universities. Not very far from Varanasi, women students of Delhi University’s Hindu College have been campaigning against bias in hostel fees.
For 117 years of its 118-year history, Hindu College did not have a functional hostel for women, forcing them to rent out apartments in areas close by. On-Campus accommodation was only available to men. Construction of women hostel began in 2013 and was finished in 2016. It was finally for the 2017-18 academic year that students were admitted into the hostel. But the fees was more than double that of the men’s hostel. In August, students launched an agitation that brought the issue to light. Now, the matter is pending with the Delhi High Court.
“In the beginning, the fee was exorbitant. The men’s hostel fee was around Rs 50,000 per year and the women’s hostel fee was close to Rs 1.3 lakh. It was after we opposed the move that the college finally reduced the fee to Rs 90,000. However, residents of the women’s hostel will end up spending over Rs 1 lakh per year if the cost of electricity is included. For all practical purposes, the fee is double of what men pay,” said Sheethal NS, a second year English (Hons) student.
According to students, the process was not followed while admitting women to the hostel. Sheethal said, “The College did not issue a prospectus for the women’s hostel and proper admission procedure was not followed. Moreover, when the fees were announced, we did not receive a break up of what we were being charged for.”
Hindu College principal Dr Anju Srivastava recently told media that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has not given funds for the women’s hostel, while it has given funds for men’s hostel. Also, women’s hostel has air conditioned rooms.
Sheethal retorted saying, “If the difference in amenities was really the reason, then why is there a disparity in fixed fees? This component does not include the electricity bill. Men are charged around Rs 28,000, while women are charged Rs 60,000 as fixed fees.”
Ish Mishra, professor of political science, also countered the college’s claims. “I was hostel warden back in 2006 and an ex-officio member of the building committee. Back then, it was first decided that we would build a women’s hostel. UGC funds were given for the construction of a women’s hostel but they were not utilized on time. It was only by 2013 that construction began. UGC funds will also not affect the wages of the mess staff.”
Students have also fought against discriminatory hostel rules. “After our protests in August, the college changed curfew timings for women. Now, curfew for both hostels is 10 pm.”
Most teachers only offer “silent support” for women students’ cause. “We understand that most teachers are ad-hoc. Privately, they tell us to keep fighting. But only a handful of teachers stand with us. Their support means a lot,” said Paribhasha Yadav, another Hindu College student.
Mishra is one of the few teachers who have come out in support of the students.
“A handful of students are keeping the fight alive. They protested in August and all of them received show-cause notice from the college administration. When they were protesting, the college was so scared that they called the police and rapid action force (RAF) to deal with 15 women students. The purpose of a university is to create fearless, free-thinking students. In that respect, these young women have already succeeded.”
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