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“No Girls Allowed After 12 A.M. In The Reading Room,” The Watchman Yelled!

University examinations are approaching, she decided to study in the reading room. But the watchman announced that no girl would be allowed in the reading room after 12 a.m. as per the dean's order.

Imagine waking up on a Sunday morning and the newspaper headlines read like:

“A Man Arrested after Being Hit by a Speeding Car while Walking on the Road

OR

“Residents of a Building under House Arrest due to Increased Murder Rates in the Locality”

OR

“AN ASTHMA PATIENT TOLD TO RIDE BICYCLE TO WORK EVERYDAY FOR FIGHTING AGAINST POLLUTION”

Sounds foolish, right? Then why are such statements casually spoken to women around us? Why are women unnecessarily scrutinized and judged over their rightful choices, like wearing crop-tops and working late in the night? Why have we as a society drastically failed to educate the males to behave properly?

And even after failing at it, why shouldn’t we restrict their freedom instead of policing girls around? No problem, it will take a while to answer those.

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Meanwhile, spare a bit of your time to take a note of this incident which was narrated to me by my best friend, leaving me confused and shell-shocked at the end of it.

Reading room facilities, are an underused resources in India

Just to set up the context, the concerned matter occurred inside a medical college. Almost all medical colleges in India have library and 24*7 reading room facilities for its students (although the hostel time limits render this advantage ineffective, but still very popular among the local students).

Majority of students prefer these arrangements over their hostel rooms or homes as it provides an ideal calm studying arena.

So, my best friend is currently pursuing M.B.B.S. in one of the reputed medical colleges of Gujarat. She is very focused, having a no-nonsense attitude towards her academics.

As her university examinations are approaching, she decided to make the reading room her home for the next 2 weeks during the night hours (we all medicos are night owls!)

Watchman announced no girl was allowed in the reading room after 12 a.m.

But on the first day itself, around 11:20 p.m. the watchman announced that no girl would be allowed in the reading room after 12 a.m. as per the dean’s order.

Hearing this, she was furious and decided to confront the watchman about this unheard rule, but she was told by two of her fellow batch mates that it would be a valiant effort in vain.

They told her that the same thing happened to them 2 days before. They were studying in the reading room at night when the watchman came and started scolding them, saying things like:

“Bohat late ho gaya hai idhar mat baitho, ghar jaao!”

It’s too late already, don’t sit here, go home!

“Dean ko complaint karke suspend karva dunga!”

I will complain to Dean and get you suspended!

He asked two teenage girls to leave college premises at 3 a.m.!

But when the girls were adamant, he told them that if they choose to sit here, he won’t let them go till 6 a.m. After that he came every 15 minutes to take their signatures (not a routine procedure) and simultaneously taunting them, which disturbs the sole purpose of studying in reading room – no interruptions in between.

Then again at 3 a.m. he asked those 2 girls to leave.

Yes, you read it right.

Two teenage girls were asked to leave college premises at 3 a.m. I don’t know if there is anything more horrible than this. After much deliberation, they somehow managed to sit in the reading room till morning.

Hearing this, my friend lost the tiny bit of hope she had and left the college immediately (no girl loves being stranded at 3 a.m. in the night, anyway.)

The root cause behind this

Later it was known that the watchman, who had duty timings of 11 p.m. – 5 a.m., he used to sleep around 3 am. But with the girls studying in the same room as the boys, any security mishap would have been his responsibility.

Thus, as always the easiest target being the girls, were forced out so that his sweet early morning nap is not compromised. Also, to be mentioned, there is no evidence to believe that the college had not issued such an order. There were talks of some wrongdoings of the students, ultimately leading to this so-called new rule.

As we nosedive into it, every single part of these incidents shows us our own shortcomings and flawed policies.

First and foremost, college is accountable for arranging every possible security for the female students, without forcing them to compromise their preferred study timings and schedule.

Why are girls are always deprived of fair chances?

When the exams are conducted on a common ground without any gender bias, why are girls being deprived of a fair chance of preparation?

There are many ways to ensure security if one wishes, like having a separate reading room for girls, or recreating such  thing inside the premises of girls hostel. If the college is unable to provide the least measures of protection, then why the price is to be paid by female students only?

If the institute is incompetent, then all students, irrespective of gender, should not be granted access after a certain time limit.

Does the watchman have the right to question a student’s intentions?

Whatever might be the reason behind the watchman’s conduct, does he have any right to question the intentions of students who were there to study?  He understandably resorted to the tactics of moral policing and nagging to make them stay away during night hours.

“Itni raat ko yaha kyu padhna hai?” 

Why do you have to study here this late in the night?

“Ghar pe kyu nahi padhti?”

Why don’t you study in home?

“Parents ko phone karunga ke aapki ladki raat-raat bhar yaha baithi rehti hai.”

I will call your parents and tell them, ‘Your daughter sits here night after night!’

But boys never face these pettinesses and mockery now, do they?

Every time it’s the girl who has to bear these baseless and nonsense questions. I can bet on it boys seldom hear such questions, it is always the girl who is seen as an easy target to shame.

It started with her choice of clothes, then came to her style of sitting, then it was about her decibel levels while laughing and now even studying leads to mansplaining morals. And amidst all of this, we consider ourselves way better than “taliban” regime.

Role of management

Hearing this whole saga, I advised my friend to strictly report to dean about all these. She herself wanted to do so initially, but eventually decided against it because of the obvious reasons.

Exams are just a fortnight away and further dwelling into these things will just result in wastage of precious time with little avail in the right direction, and I absolutely agree with that point. Medical examinations are no joke, and now without the reading room facility at night, there was much work to be done by her.

This is the ground reality of our system. “Jaisa chal raha hai chalne do,” let things run the way have been running, is gradually becoming our work ethic.

There is a saying that responsibility begins at the top. The watchman not willing to exercise his duty is not the root of the problem, but only an honest reflection.

The watchman not taking the responsibility of the girls’ security shows that the institute and management also more or less have the same opinion. They are also comfortable with only one gender studying in the night to avoid any troubles. There is little evidence for anyone to believe otherwise.

What next?

If you have answered the questions asked in the introduction, here are some more in prologue for you to ponder….

Is this the way forward for our education? Is the Right to education just a rubber stamp and nothing else?

Do we have any solid plans to ensure practical implementation of Right to education for women?

Have we made peace with the fact that Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is just a rhyming slogan that sounds good while enchanting, but not so much while abiding?

Image source: Still from trailer of Girls Hostel. 3.0

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About the Author

Sagar Dalwani

1st Year MBBS student read more...

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