During a recent debate on women safety in PU campus, women were not allowed to participate and a journalist from NDTV was asked to vacate. Standing at the crossroads of the 21st century, how far have we really come in terms of Freedom of Speech & Safety of women in our country?
Here’s an insight into what exactly happened!
The recent stalking incidence in which Chandigarh based DJ Varnika Kundu accused Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala & his friend Ashish Kumar of stalking her & attempting to kidnap her on the streets of Chandigarh while she was driving back home at night has instigated questions on the eminence of women empowerment in the country. Keeping in view the same, NDTV took an initiative to conduct a debate on the Panjab University campus to give a voice to the student leaders of the university.
It all started when the chief correspondent & anchor with NDTV, Sonal Mehrotra Kapoor conducted the first session of the Agenda debate. Contrary to the agenda of the debate, the idea of conducting the second session of the debate created a ruckus on the campus, with an attempt to intimidate the students & the journalist, thereby asking them to vacate.
“During the debate, we were talking to students on Varnika Kundu’s case and patriarchy in the society, when several students said that she was not alone, women were unsafe even inside the campus. To this one of the student leaders from PUSU said that according to him women are absolutely safe inside the campus. He was quickly booed down by the women present in the debate. Not one but by at least half a dozen women claimed they have curfew till 9 o’clock in the campus and they have even been fighting to get access to the library for a longer time. The reality came out that even in Punjab University while men were allowed late night outs, only women were asked to be indoors latest by 9 pm. Visibly upset with women debunking their claims, post the program several student leaders from PUSU surrounded my crew and I and said no further programming can happen from the campus. Leading on this angry mob of students were Nishant Kaushal, Kiran Beniwal, and Navi Khemkaran who directly came to me and threatened me. A bunch of 20-25 big boys were surrounding me when I was absolutely alone with my camera person. They came to me and threatened me from broadcasting the show and said that if I do, it will be a law & order situation. They said that I’m trying to degrade PUSU and the office bearers.They forced the security people & their security officer, they were touching my equipment & tripod and trying to take away the equipment.” said Sonal Mehrotra Kapoor.
“For at least one hour I was standing at the Student Centre when rowdy and very intimidating boys from PUSU were trying to intimidate me & my camera person, asking us to leave. They didn’t only threaten me but also the authorities who gave me the permission to come and shoot as well. In the end, thanks to some independent students who came to our rescue and we were able to broadcast again. I had come to talk about women security but ended up jeopardizing my own inside one of Punjab’s largest university.”, she further added.
Here’s what the student leaders have to say about the same:
“The NDTV’s journalist was conducting a panel discussion. She asked us to sit on the chairs. I felt that she kept on asking questions from the SFS girls. Nishant Kaushal, the ex-president claimed that there have been no incidents about eve-teasing in Panjab University since the last one year. Then a girl from SFS revoked and said that she has been a victim of eve-teasing in Panjab University ever since the last one year, and PU is not safe for girls. PUSU reverted by saying that the girl should’ve complained if such a situation had taken place. I felt that the girls dominated the panel discussion, and this ultimately led to an argumentation between PUSU & SFS.”, said Sachin Galav, NSUI Representative
Syncing with the thoughts, Nishant Kaushal, PUSU Representative said “The event was actually organized by the Public Relation Officer (PRO) of Panjab University. There were many students and other political parties of PU present for the discussion. The girls of SFS were wearing the tags of SFS. However, when I spoke, my statement was cut. Not all the student leaders were given an opportunity to voice their views. There are 20 parties in the university, however, only 2-3 parties were given an opportunity. If they just wanted to listen to the opinion of girls, then why didn’t they organize the debate in girls’ hostel? The discussion only defamed PU and certain political parties. Even the next byte had 3 girls of SFS and only 1 girl of PUSU. They made an agenda to succeed. If 24 hours freedom is given to girls, it will become very difficult to give security to them, keeping in view the financial constraints. I personally went to the Governor to discuss the same, and even started the police. But, what did the opposition do? They only resorted to stone pelting. We don’t throw stones at our own home. They’ve always made innocent students their victims.”
“The authorities cannot always provide round-the-clock security services to the students. We cannot explain the safety situation in Panjab University. The only place in PU that is open at night on the campus is Library, and Guru Tegh Bahadur Hall is also there for the girl students to study. If the girls face any issues, they should speak to the student council for help, if they don’t come to us, how we will get to know?” he further added.
Amy Singh, a woman of Chandigarh & a prominent poet of PU’s people artist forum, who was also present at the incident said, “I was one of the speakers’ who was called to speak about Varnika Kundu’s case and women safety in general. So, the NDTV journalist comes in and 7:30 she took us LIVE, and we had ABVP President, Congress Leader, Professor, Librarian, Indu Dhawan, a Social Activist, and people from different political parties of PU in the panel. In the discussion, women voiced out that they feel unsafe in Chandigarh even inside the campus at night, and how they have been fighting for the curfew to be removed or extended so that they could have better access to the library after 9. So, they said it boldly on the LIVE TV and then this question was asked from ABVP People and they were like “I condemn”. It’s crazy that they really have no respect for women in general. So, after the segment what really happened that parties like INSO, PUSU, and NSUI started saying that they’ll protest and not let the second segment of the debate take place. Women got angry and upset, they were all for women in front of the camera. However, their opinions changed within a time span of half an hour and they didn’t want us to voice our views. How funny & hypocrite is that. SFS was trying to say that we’d stand by the women to speak. The ABVP President tried to calm them down. Then the Chief Security Officer, Mr. Kaul came and said the journalist to leave. Everybody got very angry & even we got very angry. Even the members of PUSU tried to misbehave with the journalist. She was very upset with that, too. We resisted & the journalist was very fierce and she did not let the situation go out of control.”
About the Author:
A stout believer of the doctrine of karma, and definitely an optimist. Bhavya suffers from a childhood syndrome, of laughing at serious situations and the same translates in her writings in the form of disastrous wit. Food, music and books are the definition of immense happiness.