They had not eaten anything that day but when they heard the principal come out and read from a note they had long waited for, 70 young women burst out in joy. They have won their week-long fight — the students staying at the women’s hostel of Sree Kerala Varma College in Thrissur got their curfew extended to 8:30 pm.
For days, the students had protested by refusing to go inside the hostel past their previous curfew time of 4:30 pm on four days of the week and 6 pm for the rest of the week. They sat outside the gate singing protest songs, shouting slogans of ‘azaadi’ (freedom). Each time, they would be promised a meeting with the principal the next day, but the meetings were never fruitful, and the women continued their evening protests.
It began with a High Court order that had come a month ago, on a one-and-a-half-year-old petition filed by a former student of the college. The court said that students could take part in political activities and go for first and second shows of movies, both of which were not allowed by the hostel earlier. But to do either, one couldn’t stick to the existing curfew timings, and the court had said that new timings may be decided by the management, after discussing with the students.
"“We got the court order in our hands only a week ago. Since then we have been asking for a meeting with the principal and the management (the Cochin Devaswom Board under which Sree Kerala Varma falls). But there was no response from them and the meeting was always pushed ahead. They said they wanted to discuss with our parents. But we didn’t relent. The discussion had to be with us.”" - Salmath, third-year undergraduate student and hosteller.
On Friday morning, there was a meeting between the principal and hostel students in the presence of teachers at the college. “We spoke of our problems, our needs and about fixing the new curfew at 8:30 pm. That was the time all the students agreed on. We also asked that they let us know their decision the same day. It was already a month since the court order came,” Salmath says.
But in the evening, the authorities told the students that they need to discuss with their parents before making a decision about the curfew. So the students continued their protests till two of them were taken along for a meeting at the Cochin Devaswom Board.
“Even then, they stuck to their stand that they need to discuss with our parents. When we came back to the college, the students sort of gheraoed the principal at the office and the authorities called the police. Policewomen came to the campus and they were talking about arresting us. But none of the students budged – even first and second-year students. Our shouts of ‘azaadi’ had only become louder. By then we also got the support of the college union,” Salmath says.
The students said that parents should only be informed of the new curfew and by evening, that’s what the principal read out. The new curfew would be 8:30 pm and it would come into effect on Monday; parents will be informed of the decision at the next PTI meeting. The students who had been waiting outside the office shouted in joy, and the police left the building.
(The story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished in an arrangement.)
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