Girl students residing in some hostels in Delhi have started a movement called 'Pinjara Todo' to highlight the fact that they are confined into the hostels with limited freedom to remain out say after 8 or 8.30 pm along with other restrictions. The comparison with the unlimited freedom the boys have is bound to take place and is already being highlighted by the agitating girls. the media coverage has brought it out into the open.

Down the Memory Lane :

My thoughts go back to my college hostel days in one of India's first premier private deemed university in Rajasthan. There were nearly 25 boys hostels and one girls hostel. The latter was situated near to the residential quarters of the University staff as a means of extra caution. The girls had to be back in their hostel by 7.30 pm if they went out. They could not go alone and minimum two girls could go out usually to the campus market and the adjoining temple. The walls of the hostel compound were around 10-12 feet high and had barbed wire on its top. Many a Romeo alone or in groups could be seen at a distance from the wall to have a look at the inside of the hostel. Entry into the hostel was regulated and noted and the girl would come down to meet the guest in an open common room.

It was frustrating fot the nearly three thousand boys not to find a girl in the campus during the evening time. The largest faculty was the engineering faculty in which there were harly thirty or so girl students in all the five years batches. They would also not mingle with the boys and the latter also would be shy most of the time. In other faculties like science, pharmacy, and arts the ratio was relatively  better and occasionally  one could see small groups of boys and girls moving together in their faculties or in the canteen.

There were around two hundred girls in the campus which had a student population of app. four thousand odd.  We would joke that the girls are therefore a protected species. In spite of such strict protection and control there were cases of elopement, abortion and girls arranging for false permissions to visit outside. It was a common sight to see boys lining up on either side of the road leading to the girls hostel and oogling  the pair of girls going to or coming back from the market to their hostel. Many a funny scenes would take place and some times vulgar comments would be passed. It was a distressing sight for many of us to see the girls with their heads down rushing away.

Great expectations Broken :

One expected that today after so many decades things would have changed considerably. But they seem to have not changed. On the contrary in many cases they seem to have gone more worse. I have seen how girls hesitate to ride in many Delhi buses for fear of being  groped by all ages of menfolk. I once saw an aged man fall on a girl in front of him repeatedly till the girl asked him to behave. He sheepishly looked around and said he finds it hard to support himself standing in a moving bus. But after the admonishment he completely stopped falling and could stand ramrod straight for the next half an hour before he got down at his stop. 

The North India is especially vulnerable for girls. It is considered macho to tease and harass girls. The social system is loaded against the girls and giving them freedom is simply out of question. keeping them inside the hose and protecting them all the time they are out is a very big concern of the parents. Rightly so because of the wolves in form of boys wandering outside. We are aware of the Khap panchayats  giving astonishing rulings totally against the girls. 

In Western India the situation is relatively better. Girls can move freely and work in diverse fields especially in cities like Mumbai,  Pune , Ahmedabad, Vadodara etc. Yet we find high rate of girls being killed in the wombs or at birth. The skewed ratio of girls to boys is a sad indicator of the injustice done to girls.

The South seems to be relatively better in treating its girls. In my college maximum girls were from South and we used to admire the confidence the parents had in sending their girls to study far away in a college in north India. The female to male ratio is also healthy and Kerala women are ahead in nursing and sports areas. Kudos to them.

The East is relatively still conservative except perhaps Kolkatta and Darjeeling. However women are leading agitations in some North East states. They are very much into fine arts. There are few and far in between reports of female harassment from these states.

However overall the girl child in India is still not very welcome, though the picture is changing rapidly in many urban areas  The girls themselves are projecting themselves very ably. It is no longer news now that in most of the competition exams, girls are outsmarting boys in the top positions. The increasing laurels brought to the country in sports like badminton and tennis is  a pointer in the direction that girls can achieve better than boys if given adequate  support and opportunities.

The Protected Species:

Then why are still girls feeling that they are being caged? Why is the agitation "Pinjara todo" launched by the hostel girls in the Capital. It  clearly shows, that for all the  progress made by girls, in various fields and even in States like Haryana, the mindset of the society has not undergone a change. Girls need to be protected from prowling boys at least till they are married. No such restrictions are imposed on boys. They can drink, gamble, loaf around, while away their father's money, tease and harass girls without any fear or care. All the restrictions are to be placed on the  hapless and helpless girl. Her being virtous  is an achievement for her safe future. No such requirement from the boys.

If they are caught indulging in rapes etc. politicians will protect them by saying boys can commit mistakes.Parents will take their side and try to keep it within the house. Rarely is the boy punished. He may get a mouthful at the most. But if the girl is wronged then she has to bear the brunt of parental and societal wrath. Life becomes hell for her and often it is a lifelong blot she has to face. All this because the boys are not caged.

Need for Change:

There is a need to now start caging the boys. In boys hostels there should be a rule that all boys have to be in by say 9 PM. They cannot go out alone. at least two have to go out together. If any girl comes to meet them they can do so only in the common room. Boys have to share the cleaning of the hostel premises by turns. These may look silly but why should such restrictions be imposed on the girls only. It is only when boys start feeling the pain of restrictions will hopefully realize how life is tough for girls due to their follies. It might make them softer towards girls and also change their outlook towards them. 

The conditioning of boys has to start from childhood itself. Parents have to treat both the boy and girl equally. Rewards have to be same for similar performances. Boys have to be taught to be soft towards girls and treat them with respect. Similarly such messages have to be imparted in schools also. The value system comes from parents and school teachers. So they are two important sources of changing the outlook of boys towards girls. Also influential religious teachers should also speak in this direction to their followers. The politicians should keep out. Over a period of time it can be expected that the outlook of boys towards girls will undergo a healthy change. The society will become a much safer place for women. 

The agitation by girls is a pointer to the fact that girls also want freedom like boys to move about in the society, take their own decisions, plan their own careers, and be responsible for their conduct. They basically want to be trusted. They want to be seen as contributors and not as a protected species. It is time this opportunity was given to them.

It is time now that instead of the girls, it is the boys who should be caged.  

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