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Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

There’s a pernicious evil abroad in the republic which is disturbing the peace, equanimity and citizenship of over 600 million women citizens on a daily basis. This is the evil practice of large-scale molestation of women, causally dismissed as ‘eve-teasing’ by benighted leaders of the country, police and the judiciary. This phenomenon which has its roots in patriarchy and the inferior status accorded to women by society is costing the economy dearly, by way of productivity and output loss. Although pundits and prophets tend to make light of it, the second class status of women is reinforced by popular cinema — in which stalking and harassment of women is projected as a courtship ritual — and free streaming of pornography over the Internet, where women are depicted as enjoying humiliating and tortuous sex. 

Regrettably but inevitably, regressive social attitudes towards the status of women have permeated the country’s already weak public education system characterised by crumbling infrastructure, teacher absenteeism, and poor learning outcomes. From early childhood, girl children suffer inequality and discrimination at home and in school. And to add to their burden as they grow to maturity, the small minority of women who enter higher education live in constant fear of sexual harassment in public places and on college and university campuses. 

Incidents of open, uninterrupted and continuous harassment of women citizens are especially prevalent in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh — India’s most educationally backward and lawless state. However in September, women students of Benares Hindu University — the oldest university in the state which ironically observed its centennial anniversary in 2016 — protested vigorously against the thousand unnatural shocks they have to endure daily. 

The establishment’s response was to order a brutal police lathi charge against them on September 23. Since then, the women’s protest at BHU has acquired momentum and it’s quite possible this agitation will inspire women students in all 39,000 junior and undergraduate colleges, and 800 universities countrywide to take up arms and wrest their constitutional rights of equality, freedom to access campus spaces, and dignity of personhood. A victory for the women students of BHU in the struggle for emancipation and gender equality is a necessary pre-condition for improvement in the status of women across the country. For the first cover story of the new year, our intrepid Lucknow-based correspondent Puja Awasthi travelled across UP’s campuses to write this first-hand report. 

Inevitably, there’s more in this inaugural issue of 2018. Our tireless managing editor Summiya Yasmeen highlights the milestone events of another all-sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing year for Indian education. And in our People section, check out the profiles of individuals who carry on regardless, to improve education in perhaps the most change-resistant nation worldwide. 

Happy New Year! 

55 Views  | Posted on: 5 Jan,2018 Add Comment  Show Comments (0)