After evading its responsibility of allocating a safe accommodation for a trans student, Yashika, the Punjab University has been directed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to act independently instead of waiting around for government’s directions on the matter. The university has so far maintained that they will only be taking any action on hostels for transgender students after directions from the UT administration.
This decision comes after a month. A month that has been full of challenges for Yashika. Her current living situation is not ideal. She has been allotted a small room above the faculty headquarters. She lives there alone, isolated from the rest of the campus.
“It’s both saddening and scary to live here. I don’t have anybody up here to talk to or ask for help in case something goes wrong. I feel like I have been boycotted,” said Yashika, describing her experience living there. This is not all. The attitude of the faculty and the students has also not been ideal.
Yashika shared with Gaysi that she has been stalked at college too. “People follow me from university to the faculty quarters. It makes me feel very disgusted and unsafe. On top of this, there are no security arrangements at this place. There is no CCTV or anything.”
University has also not provided any other facilities available at its other hostels to Yashika. Things such as a gym or a newspaper, which are provided to the other students are unavailable to her.
“At times I feel like a demand for accommodation from the university was too much for them.” She describes the administration’s behaviour towards her as transmysoginistic and arrogant. “They don’t consider me a woman. I don’t count in their eyes. It’s not just me either. There were trans students here before me. They ended up leaving the university because there was no accommodation here for them. 3-4 students dropped out.”
A ray of hope
Things are however not completely hopeless at Punjab University. The Punjab Feminist Union seems to be a ray of hope. They are a small, but fierce student body that was founded recently. The fight for transgender accommodation was the first issue that they took up and they have been successful.
Apart from this Yashika has found an ally in her professor. It’s her head of department. “She has been very supportive from the start and has guided me every step of the way. She helped us a lot with everything. In meetings with the administration she constantly researched and presented policies that have been already implemented in other universities like TISS.”
Despite all the arrogance of the university administration and the harassment that she faces in the campus, Yashika is not ready to give up. “This is what the admin does. They don’t listen to you and then you protest and they have to listen. I know I have to fight for my rights and I will.”
Yashika’s fight is not for herself alone. She, along with the Punjab Feminist Union, wants to establish a queer collective on campus. Together they also plan on establishing an anti-gender discrimination cell. They also want to ensure that the university eventually hires a transgender professor so students have someone to confide in. She hopes that no other transgender student has to drop out of Punjab University due to lack of accommodation. Looking at Yashika’s success in advocating for change so far, it seems likely that she’ll achieve these goals, with the active support of her allies.