The Gargi violence must not go unpunished
The State must ensure that educational institutions remain safe spaces for women
The appalling incident of molestation in Delhi’s Gargi College is an outright criminal act, which merits strong punishment. While 12 students from other colleges, who had apparently forced their way into Gargi, have been arrested, several questions remain unanswered. Why is it that outsiders were not screened properly before being allowed into the college? How is it that the police, posted outside. did nothing even when the students were being molested? Why, apart from the 12, have the other offenders not been arrested, despite several CCTV cameras capturing footage of the incident?
Colleges are meant to be safe spaces for women, indeed all students, but increasingly, outsiders are able to access them with impunity. Across several universities, innocent students have been targeted, and the law-enforcement personnel have either been passive spectators or active aggressors. Women confront an additional danger. They face an uphill task negotiating public spaces to get to colleges, but if they cannot be assured of their safety once within their premises, some of them may opt out of their studies. At a time when female participation in the workforce is declining, women must be encouraged to pursue higher education, which enables them to negotiate jobs. The home ministry, which controls Delhi Police, must act against those police personnel who stood by, while the young women were being harassed. Security around women’s colleges also must be stepped up, especially during events that draw large crowds.