DU norms to curb untoward incidents keep fest organisers on short leash

Many students say the stringent norms make it hard to secure sponsors for cultural events

Published - February 05, 2024 02:27 pm IST - New Delhi

The university has witnessed several harassment cases in recent times, including the incident at the ‘Shruti’ fest at Indraprastha College for Women last year.

The university has witnessed several harassment cases in recent times, including the incident at the ‘Shruti’ fest at Indraprastha College for Women last year. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

As every new year begins, Delhi University colleges get in the thick of preparations for their respective cultural festivals, usually held between March and April.

However, from 2024, student bodies will organise their fests as per the latest advisory issued by DU Proctor Rajni Abbi.

Dated January 11, the advisory makes a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the police as well as a security liaisoning meeting with ‘other stakeholders’ like the Fire Department and the university mandatory for such events.

Other strict guidelines include entry through registration forms submitted to the police, limiting the number of participants based on the venue’s capacity, concertina wires on boundary walls, as well as installing CCTV cameras at hostel and college gates along with washrooms.

Instances of harassment

The advisory is a follow-up of a similar document issued last April in the wake of the incident at Indraprastha College for Women (IPCW) on March 28, 2023, when some men scaled the walls and harassed students at its fest ‘Shruti’.

DU has seen similar cases in recent times — several men trespassed into Miranda House in 2022 during its Deepavali fest and indulged in “cat-calling and sexist sloganeering”; in 2020, a few men harassed some attendees sexually at the ‘Reverie’ fest after breaking into Gargi College.

The university believes the advisory will make college spaces and fests safer for female students, who, however, said it restrains them from opening their campuses to peers from other institutions.

“More distressing than the occurrence [of harassment incidents] is the inadequate response to them. It is important to set a precedent so that these can be prevented entirely,” said Aiyesha Khan, a student of Miranda House. The North Campus college is likely to host its fest, ‘Tempest’, in April.

While some students call the advisory a “blot on the sacrosanct DU fest culture”, others claim the guidelines make it hard to ensure the “building block” of every event — sponsorships.

“Sponsors are brought on board based on the number of attendees. With a cap on this number, agreements are becoming increasingly difficult to secure,” said Harsh Dalal, president of the student union of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), which will host ‘Crossroads’ in the first week of April.

At Jesus and Mary College, the annual fest ‘Montage’ was cancelled last year following the IPCW incident, while the preceding three editions were not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A student at the college said if it cannot be held grandly this year, “we shouldn’t organise it at all”.

IPCW alumnus Anjali Sharma said the guidelines are “restrictive, alienating, and discriminatory — contradictory to the life one wants to experience in college”.

While Shubhdha Chaudhary, a former assistant professor at IPCW, supported the NOC and security liaisoning meeting, she is averse to the idea of restricting the number of attendees. “The foundation of every fest is peer-to-peer coordination, networking, and the exposure one receives as part of a larger set-up like DU. We must not curtail that,” she added.

Some backers

However, the advisory has found some takers. Apoorvanand, professor of Hindi at DU’s Faculty of Arts, said, “The guidelines are completely reasonable. The administration is expected to ensure the safety of students, particularly girls, and these guidelines are a way towards ensuring that.”

“Self-regulation among students has failed and this is the only way forward in the absence of an alternative,” he told The Hindu.

Even some students believe that the advisory could ensure security and make things smoother for organisers. “Pre-registrations and controlled entry will make things easier and improve the quality of the fest,” said Aman Choudhary, president of the student union at Sri Venkateswara College. After a three-year hiatus, the South Campus college is set to host its annual fest ‘Nexus’ in mid-March.

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