Written by Women Students of #pinjratod Campaign
After an exhilarating march through the lanes of Delhi University last Friday, we arrived at Vijaynagar tea point to begin our night vigil against sexual harassment. The Vijay Nagar tea point, which is usually occupied only by men,took a different dimension that night as women took over and redefined the nature of that space. When we began our Pinjra Tod street play, Satender Awana (Ex-DUSU President from ABVP) arrived at the vigil along with his drunken companions. As expected, they smirked, laughed, passed comments and started to take videos on their phones, as though our protest was for their entertainment. The ABVP men ordered the chai-wallah to shut down, acting as the bully they are, in a display of their male, upper caste entitlement and insecurity. At the end of our play, Awana and Co, very predictably, began to scream “bharat mata ki jai!”. One of these ABVP men in a green T-Shirt, thought it would be ‘fun’ to flash a hundred rupee note at a Pinjra Tod activist and provocatively dance with it, in a desperate attempt to shame us by suggesting that we were ‘randis’ dancing for their pleasure. On being challenged, the man caught hold of the Pinjra Tod activist’s wrists and kept tightening his grip, while attempting to corner her with his friends.
We, women were not going to tolerate this infuriating display anymore! The anger that lies buried in us from facing such harassment and aggression everyday in our universities, was to erupt that night. The manner in which ABVP behaved at the vigil, was not an isolated incident, but it happens repeatedly in our classrooms, during elections, on the streets, in public meetings and protests, turning the university into a hostile masculinist space, instead of a democratic and liberating one for all students.
This night had to be ours, truly ours! A night where a different imagination of the streets, of universities, of our lives was to be built. With loud screams of “hum bharat ki mata nahi banenge”, “sanghi gunde hosiyaar”, “yeh university hamari hai, purusho ki jagir nahi”, “jab jab ladyika sadko peh utri hai, itihas ki dhara badli hai”, we took on ABVP on their home turf and forced them to retreat. By throwing money at us, they thought they could ‘humiliate’ us by implying that we women who were protesting, screaming and dancing on the streets at night are ‘randis’ who must be ridiculed. This is a label which BJP and RSS leaders repeatedly give women who dissent against them, who fight patriarchal and castiest dictats. Unfortunately for ABVP, alluding to us as ‘randis’ was barely going to work for ‘insulting’ or ‘shaming’ us.
This binary of the ‘good woman’ and the ‘bad woman’ is much the same as ‘national’ and ‘anti national’. Refuse to live by their patriarchal, casteist diktats and you soon find yourself sliding down the slippery slope of their binaries. This night, we did not only chant, ‘Hum bharat ki mata nahin banenge’ but also embodied it fiercely. The act of drinking and waving a note at us reproduces, historically, the savarna gaze and control over women’s bodies, meanwhile also belittling our politics. We not only challenged that but we also defy being shamed into these categories. ABVP by extension became a metaphor for this University, which also wants to shame us constantly. We defy these patriarchal attempts!
The collective power and rage of women students who had joined the Pinjra Tod vigil refused to let ABVP destroy a night that we had so painstakingly created, we successfully shooed them off and reclaimed our space back with a joyous hopeful energy, filling the night with poetry and songs of love and resistance.
tum ney loota hey sadiyoon humara sakoon,
ab na hum per chaleyga tumhara fasoon!
aiseh dastoor ko, hum nahi mante, hum nahi jante!
Sanghi gundon campus chhodo!
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