Culture of harassment? Suspended University of Hyderabad student replies to hostel warden's show cause notice

Pratyush Nirjher was suspended for two years as a 'lady' was found in his University of Hyderabad hostel room during a surprise raid by the warden and security staff.

Published: 09th November 2017 10:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th November 2017 11:48 AM   |  A+A-

University of Hyderabad

University of Hyderabad

By Online Desk

The University of Hyderabad on Wednesday had suspended 10 students including two women students “with immediate effect” on charges of misconduct, physical and verbal assault on its officials.

Three of the students have been suspended for two years while the rest for six months.

The decision was based on the recommendations of a committee constituted on a surprise raid conducted on at the Men's Hostel J.

An inquiry panel found Pratyush Nirjher,  Atira Unni V (MA-sociology) and Sagnik Saha (PhD-history) guilty of “refusing to comply with rules, preventing officials from discharging their duties and indulging in verbal assault”, for which they were suspended for two years.

Read Pratyush Nirjher's full letter below:

 

SHOWING THE CHAOS

The warden
J & K Hostel
2/11/2017
Sub: Response to the show cause notice issued by the warden 

Dear Sir,
The show cause notice issued to me Dated on 27/10/2017 is seeking explanation for two ‘crimes’ committed by me. 

1. The fact that you ‘found a lady in my room’
2. Why did I shout at the Warden

Following is the explanation for these two things in detail.

Explaining why there was a woman/ why can’t there be a woman?

Pratyush Nirjher.
hoto | facebook)

First of all the very language of this official notice is denigrating women. You ‘found a lady’ in the room, as if you find a bottle or a knife or a heater, or any lifeless object. And this sense of negation of an active woman subject generated in your language was proved not an accident when one of the Wardens at the time of the raid, silenced this woman while she started to intervene in the conversation that was going on.

It was a smoothly violent objectification and invisibilization- “Madam, you are not supposed to talk”!!

I understand that such a notice has been sent to me on the ground that entry of women in Men’s Hostels is against the hostel rule book. Whenever the students have raised this issue of free mobility within the campus, you refer back to this ‘holy rule book’ to defend your restriction on the student community.

Now, for the fact that this rule is muddled with a number of discrepancies and ironies that I find it hardly possible to understand the rationale on which it is grounded on.

So, I request an explanation for the following problems and ambiguities in the rule itself.

1. How does the rule book define the hostel space? Is it a public space or a private space? If it is a public space, free access to any public space to the citizen is ensured by the constitution of India. I believe your hostel rule book cannot bypass the constitution. The other case, if you define it as a private space, then this infiltration of the authority into the private spaces of students is a blatant violation of our fundamental right to privacy. In that case this very act of surprise-regular raids without the prior intimation given to the students, which is no doubt a barging into our privacy, is also unconstitutional.

2. Is it about the security of women? Then the rule certainly presupposes the patriarchal-brahmanical notion that women are naturally weak / meek creatures who should be controlled and protected (by the men folk consisting – father, husband, son, wardens etc.). The second question is that how do you determine what is women’s security? In what all places and circumstances do you consider women to be insecure? In my case my female friend and classmate, whom you met in the room during the raid, was sick and I was about to take her to the hospital. I am the closest friend to her in the campus and obviously she feels more comfortable and secure around me than anyone else especially in such a situation when she was in the need to be taken care of. For her to feel safe and secure at the moment was to be in that room with me, which your rule of ‘security’ would call a crime! So it is clear that it is not really about the security of anyone, your ‘security’ is rather a tool for control and oppression.

It’s then your surprise raids with a bunch of staffs and security personals and threatening of the students through different means- sometimes violent words and absurd notices (as in my case) otherwise through direct harassment ( as happened two months ago in K hostel) are the real security threat for them inside the men’s hostel.

Harassments, violence, and any sort of breach of a woman’s bodily integrity can happen in any place inside the campus other than the hostels, like class rooms, labs, libraries, auditoriums, on their way to and way back from classrooms, library etc. The logic of your project of ‘security’ -that is to restrict or deny women’s access to these ‘potential places of threat’-what happens if it is extended to all the possible places of threat? To what extent will you go? Stopping women from going to gym, night canteens, sports complex, then libraries, labs, classes at last, then lock them up in the hostel rooms…??

3. Is the restriction in the name of morality and culture? If this rule is grounded on the ‘great’ Indian morality and culture, then you are contradicting your own terms. The Irony is that in this same university, Tagore International House has a common residential arrangement for male and female students, while women’s entry into men’s hostels is criminalised among the Indian students. What message are you trying to convey through this differential rules? Is it that Indian men, the product of the culture that your rule professes are potential harassers not the foreigners - a remnant of the colonial mentality that the Western culture is more civilized and superior than the Indian- inferior one?

Or is the attempt here is calculated to preserve the regressive heterosexual bourgeois norm in the name of saving ‘Indian culture’? But it can be historically seen that the very rule-which tries to preserve heterosexual norm-breaks it apart. For example the rules through which you are trying to create a wall between men and women, by giving them less and less space to interact with each other, in the name of preserving ‘Indian culture’ will create a condition where men start treating women not as friends, classmate or partners in their life and work, but mere objects of sexual-desire, which will make this campus more and more unsafe for women. BHU-the epitome of championing ‘Indian morality and culture where these rules are implemented more strictly, is an open example of the culture of most harsh form of harassment of women on daily basis.

So are you trying to implement that culture of harassment in our university also? Haven’t you learned a lesson from what happened in BHU few months before?

Explaining why did I shout on the warden/Why are you silencing us?

Shouting is an expression of anger. This anger is the product of the mental trauma through which we are going on in our everyday life because of the food, maintenance and health crisis in the campus. The events which are taking place in last two months are the proof that you and other authorities are not interested in resolving these issues at all. Two months before, when spontaneously more than 50 students of J&K hostels besieged you and started expressing their anger on different complaints, issues and the way you harassed some of the residents of K hostel and humiliated them by passing sexist comments, clicking the pictures of the undergarments of their female friends during the raid, and demanded from you written explanation for the same or resignation from your post, you ran away. Now you are back again with raids, circulars, show-cause notices, fines etc. and started using them as the tools for witch-hunting the students to create an environment of fear so that you can silence us.

Why are you silencing us? Is there some hidden agenda or interest of yours, which you are trying to protect and execute through these acts?

No protests please, we don't want Rohith Vemulas: University of Hyderabad asks students to sign affidavit

Few days before administration came up with a circular which restricts the entry of food vendors in the campus supposedly in the interest of shopkeepers inside the campus. But we understand that it is clearly in the interest of the administration who wants to make more money in the form of rent from these shopkeepers. And just after that you started raiding the hostels so that you can stop students from cooking inside the rooms and indirectly force us to do two things- First, if we are not in a condition to eat in the mess firstly because of the poor quality of the food served there or because of some other problems like-health issues or ethnically different food habits, we are forced to eat from outside, like-Gopanpally or Shopcom or somewhere else. But this can be done only by those students who have scholarships or who come from a higher socio-economic background. The shopkeepers of Gopanpally use the money, which they earn from us, to pay the tender of shops inside the campus, which directly goes to the administration and some middle men (who can be any one, like-students or staffs etc.) in the form of rent. Such a nexus between administration-middle men-shopkeepers inside and outside the campus is made operational by extracting money from students. Second, those who come from weak socio-economic background are forced to eat in the mess from where some agents are generating a lot of money in the form of corruption. 

The poor quality of the food an obvious consequence of this corruption, has created a general health crisis in HCU. Jaundice, typhoid, different sort of infections, gastric troubles etc. are now a general condition among the students. Here the extended part of this large unholy nexus comes into play - the health centre- the insurance company- and hospitals. And this part is most threatening because they are making money even out of this crisis by directly exploiting our sick body and mind. In such a condition, if someone falls sick and has to order fruits or some other healthier eatables / food online in the moment of sickness what are they supposed to do? Suppose their hostel is south campus, do you want them to go to main gate to receive their parcels? How will they manage it if they are sick and do not have enough friends who can help them in such moments? This is absurd, shameless and violent anti-students rule.

I know that there will be an attempt from your part to individually target and witch hunt me, which have always been your tool to supress the loud and assertive. But my voice is just one of those voices echoing the anger and agitation of the whole student community. I believe you cannot silence us all.

So, the student community demands an official explanation for all the questions raised in the letter as soon as possible from the warden office.

PRATYUSH NIRJHER
Room NO: 119. MH: J 2/11/2017

 

Among the suspended include Tinanjali Dam,  a representative of the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), Dam has been suspended for six months.

The Students’ Union of the University of Hyderabad condemned the suspension order and called it “unfair”. “There was no representative from the student community on the panel and it is against the rules. Therefore, we demand that the suspension order should be revoked with immediate effect,” said Seerag P, president of the Students’ Union.

Wardens and security staff raided the J Hostel on November 3 and reportedly found a female student in one of the boys' room. 

According to university rules, girls are not allowed into the men’s hostel. The matter soon escalated and police had to be called in. On November 4, an inquiry committee was set up and it submitted its report on November 6.

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