Address Indraprastha incident as cultural, not law and order issue
The college campuses do not have the wherewithal to organise such events and they should not be organised.
The high-powered committee appointed to look into an incident of harassment at the prestigious Indraprastha College for Women (ICFW) was expected to do a better job than making mere mundane suggestions. It has been alleged that some men scaled the college walls during a cultural festival in the last week of March and harassed several students.
Following the initial lukewarm response to the matter, several rounds of protests were held by the students led by various groups but predominantly by those aligned to the Left. At the centre of their demand was resignation of college Principal Professor Poonam Kumaria. Incidentally, Kumaria had joined as college principal just a week ahead of the festival and would not have been solely responsible for the organisation of the event.
Given the ideological dye of the protesting student leaders, it can be believed that demanding Kumaria’s resignation had more to do with her right-wing alignment than much of her role in the incident. Nevertheless, good that the protests brought the unsavoury incident into the public domain and finally DU was made to set up a panel to look into the matter.
Going by the media reports, installing CCTV cameras, restricting entry of outsiders, hiring private security and increasing the height of boundary walls are the major recommendations among the measures suggested by a Delhi University’s panel to augment security. The report said that the guidelines have been prepared by the DU in collaboration with Delhi Police.
If the guidelines are true, it looks more like a Delhi Police handout than any intellectual input having been given by Delhi University dons on the panel. If the police has its way, a stretch of every 100 metres would have a barricade, every nook and cranny a camera and each wall raised to the height of those at the Tihar Jail.
The incident which took place at ICFW is not exclusive to that college but takes place in lesser and greater degrees across all the colleges during the cultural festivals which end in a finale of what’s generally called a celebrity night. The initial police statement makes us realise the root of the problem. It mentioned that ‘artist Asees Kaur was called for a performance and there was a massive crowd near the gate. Around 3 pm, some overzealous students hurried to enter the college. Some of the students fell down and got injured. We have lodged an FIR and further investigations are on.’
For those not knowing, Asees Kaur is an Indian singer who has participated in various singing reality shows including Indian Idol and Awaz Punjab Di. In 2021, her song ‘Raatan Lambiyan’ from Shershaah, with Tanishk Bagchi, became a huge hit. She being the current rage, of course, the crowd was going to be big and not easy to manage. The question is why to jeopardise the functioning of campus by having such artists?
There has been a tradition in many colleges that such shows be organised in the bevvy of auditoriums that we have across the city. Here the show, the artist and the crowd can be better managed. The college campuses do not have the wherewithal to organise such events and they should not be organised.
Did we ever hear of gate-crashing across colleges in Delhi during a classical dance and/or music show; or for that matter people breaking into a theatre to watch a play or a lecture theatre to hear a Nobel laureate? Celebrity nights are more of a cultural issue, pepped by sponsor’s money, than a law and order problem. DU should address it that way and not the Delhi Police way.
Author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice