Bangalore University splits boys, girls
A LoC (line of control) has been drawn at the Bangalore University. A brutal attack on a group of women students in the English department on May 2, has prompted its Syndicate, the highest decision-making body, to pass a resolution: not to let boys and girls sit together during classes!
–TOI: Bangalore, 18th May 2006
Not the first thing you would expect to see on your morning newspaper. Raises too many questions, and well, TOI wasn’t supposed to do that anyway, or were they? Read the full article here.
I was having this conversation yesterday evening with my sister (who studies in a medical college in Kolkata) on a somewhat similar topic. She was telling me that this classmate of hers who was sitting beside her was leaning across such that it was a little uncomfortable for her. So she had asked him (rather politely at first) to straighten up. The guy had made a face, and then did straighten up. In about 15 minutes, though, he was back to the old posture, literally falling on to her. My sister, then, rather casually mentioned to him that if he does not straighten up in the next 5 seconds, “even though you are a classmate, I would not care about your career, your future etc, and will go and complain to the director”. The guy had straightened up thereafter.
I had asked my sister, is it a common malady in colleges? Does it happen often? And do other girls speak up like she did? In her usual irreverent tone, she said that yes, there are a few instances where it happens; yes, if you tell them off, the guys stop; but no, not everyone speaks up; “It is the mild ones, the shy ones who tend to bear the brunt”, she said.
That took me back to the days at my old Engineering college, here in Bangalore. In the first few days of class, there were a boys’ wing and a girls’ wing. And the middle wing had a few girls in the first two seats, an empty row or two in the middle, and two rows of sleepy backbench guys followed. Most of us were from all boys’ or all girls’ schools, and were not very comfortable communicating with the other sex.
As time passed, that level of discomfort reduced and it was common for guys and girls to share seats. Now I’m sure none of the girls in our class were trying to be progressive (as Mr. Narahari claims in the newspaper column), but were just being themselves. I doubt if they were really conscious of sitting beside guys, they were just sitting beside another classmate. So, there were some who sat with basically anybody, be them boys or girls. There were some who fell in love, and sat only with each other. And there were some girls, and some guys, who continued to sit with other girls, or other guys, the level of discomfort had not quite reduced for them. All in all, it was a normal class.
My sister’s words made me wonder, did similar things happen in our college too? Were there guys in our college too, who were told to sit straight by girls? And even if there are incidents as violent as the one in the BU English department, does that justify putting a full-stop to normal, natural behaviour between guys and girls?
I decided to call up my sister. What could be her take to this? The following is a gist of what the caustic, vocal kid sister of mine came up with.
That’s just irrational. What is this Syndicate trying to do? Are they trying to segregate the world into two parts, one belonging to men and the other to women? I studied in an all-girls school, you studied in an all-boys school, it was initially a little uncomfortable for me to interact normally with people of the other gender in college, I’m sure it must have been for you too… but after that we adjusted. Some adjusted better. Some adjusted worse. But that’s fine, isn’t it?
By driving this kind of a wedge between normal interactions, will this Syndicate not ensure that these guys who pass out of colleges with these restrictions in place,will never be able to look at women as equals, and by equal I mean no better and no worse, no more special and no less? And neither will the girls. Don’t you see that these guys and girls will meet other people in the workplace for the matter and there will be no separate seats for guys and girls there? And this syndicate member of yours, is he himself really convinced that men and women should have equal rights, in the first place?
And you remember the incident I was talking to you about, yesterday? Tell me, what would any woman patient prefer? A doctor who is perverted, repressed and has never learnt to see women as humans; or a doctor who had been lecherous as a young’un but has been made to realise that he has to draw the line at some stage?
And well, I don’t think I have much to add to this. I’ll just add this little caveat.
Separate seats is not the solution. Separate seats is the same as the Jews having to wear the mark of their religion in Nazi Germany. That is separatist, and college is supposed to be anything but separatist.
Is it unnatural to be sexually attracted by a female classmate? Of course not. What differentiates a human from an animal in this case is in the human’s ability to keep a control to that feeling, because expression of that feeling might be tantamount to violating the other person’s personal space.
And the solution is in creating proper controls such that a) female students are made to feel comfortable and confident that their complaints, if any, will be addressed in the correct way; and b) Matters such as the one on the 2nd of May are never allowed to escalate to such levels. And that is the responsibility of the college authority.
And incidents like the one on the 2nd of May will, IMHO, not be stopped with something as trivial as making boys and girls sit on separate seats.