At MANUU, women are harassed for fun

The only job the internal complaints’ committee does is preach about the ‘repercussions’ of reporting a matter.

WrittenBy:Anonymous
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Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) is a central university in Hyderabad that caters to students from various regions and academic backgrounds. The varsity, interestingly, has a “culture” of its own, certain “MANUU traditions” that we are bound to follow, and these traditions are unofficially thrust upon students – especially women.

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The majority of female students can be seen in a burqa which, broadly speaking, symbolises the overall religious manifestation of the university. Sexuality and sexual harassment are topics that cannot be discussed openly on the campus. Moreover, male and female students are not even allowed to talk and walk together and if anyone does so, the authorities immediately take note.

Women students, who make up nearly half of the total population in the varsity, are absent from all extra-curricular activities, including student union elections. Things get even more complex when a male student is seen near the girl’s hostel. The security guards get in action, blow their shrill whistles and come and remind you every minute that “time ho gaya”, hinting that you need to leave. Also, the guards either join the conversation between the two male and female students or somehow make sure they are left feeling awkward.

You also see lots of giant hoardings on campus which read “No Ragging”, “Make MANUU Ragging-Free Campus”. Ironically, most of the time, the authorities are hell-bent on ragging the students. Not only the higher officials, but even security guards can be seen in every nook and corner of MANUU audaciously harassing the students, especially women.

The girls’ hostel in MANUU maintains a “food register” in which you are supposed to write what food you are ordering from outside. And, if you come from outside the campus with two-three polybags in your hand, you will be stopped at the main gate by the guards and get inspected because they want to know what’s inside the bags.

The ingrained sexism in these acts makes one angry when you realise they do these things “for fun”! Many women students act “shy” in order to evade the questions of the security guards. Surrendering to all their nonsense in a “girly manner” is the good way of dealing with irksome officials and other “protectors”.

The sexual harassment cell in MANUU is invisible, just like its female students. The committee was called Policy against Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (PADASH) until the introduction of UGC regulations in 2016. Although the panel’s name was changed to Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), all other guidelines, including the representation of students, were never implemented.

Four out of five members in the ICC are from the faculty of different departments. The external member, Jameela Nishat, director of NGO Shaheer Resource Centre, is hardly invited for any kind of hearings. A lot of complainants testify that the faculty members in ICC pass judgments on students from their department. Hence, the students hesitate in registering cases.

The only job that the committee members are keen about is making students understand the repercussions of going to the panel and filing a complaint. They give “valuable advice” in class, such as “if you file a complaint, you will be called to the office again and again, you will be taken note of by the administration, it might bring problems in future admissions”, etc.

The general environment on the campus forces us to pretend that these issues don’t exist. Many people in general suggest remaining silent, not because they are afraid but because everyone knows nothing will come out of the complaints registered.

I, myself, have been a victim of this dysfunctional committee. I was harassed openly in a crowd of students last year. According to the rule, I went to the sexual harassment cell and filed a complaint. I was summoned separately, so was the boy, and many uncomfortable questions were asked about my personal life. My family background and the way I was brought up were questioned. Clearly, victim-blaming took place.

I still feel obliged to my entire friends’ group that stood by me and encouraged me to file a complaint. Some of them testified as witnesses. Unfortunately, and to my despair, my friends were tortured with silly questions which they patiently answered just because they wanted action from the authorities.

However, this was the only time I was called for a meeting and till date I haven’t heard from the authorities about the status of my complaint. When I went and enquired, one of the office-bearers told me “koi evidence lao. Ya phir is masley ko yanhi khatam karo. Apne kaam pay dhyan do aur sab bhool jao (get some proof otherwise end this matter here. Pay attention to your work and forget whatever happened)”. So basically no action was taken on my complaint.

The university boasts about its efforts towards women empowerment and that is where the irony lies. The women who have been made invisible on the campus are again and again preached to by the self-styled godmen on campus.

When Newslaundry reached out to ICC chairperson M Vanaja, she insisted that the panel works in a proper manner. “Ever since I took charge of the ICC, we have received only one complaint and it has been settled already,” she said. Asked about the case mentioned above, she said she can’t respond without looking into the records. “I need to look into the files to know the status of the specific case you are talking about,” Vanaja said, refusing to comment further.

Disclaimer: Fearing retaliation, the author has requested anonymity.

If you’re a student, professor or an alumnus and want to write/share how your college deals with sexual harassment, the systems to check it or the lack thereof, email us at campus@newslaundry.com

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