Pinjra Tod (literally meaning ‘break the cage’) is a campaign that started in August last year around colleges and universities in Delhi, opposing discriminatory policies for women hostellers. Female students typically face rigid curfew times, higher rents, stringent regulations (often leading to moral policing) and almost completely different experiences of living in universities from their male counterparts, all wrapped in the explanation of “safety”. Even in access to university facilities, such as libraries and laboratories, the gender bias shows up – female students are often mandated to be in their room much before these facilities close.
The campaign has continued to grow with time. They have collected experiences of women students not just in Delhi but from all over the country, all facing similar oppressive conditions. In a report compiled for the Delhi Commission for Women, some of the experiences of hostellers in Delhi have been released, along with recommendations on how these issues can be tackled. In response to the report, DCW has issued notices to all registered universities in Delhi, asking them to provide data on their policies and hostel conditions and explain the differential regulations.
In conversation with The Wire, Tiwari and Vikram, both part of the Pinjra Tod campaign since its inception, talk about how the movement came into being, the issues women in hostels face, the challenges and hesitance they saw (including from other female students) and where they plan to go from here.