Two weeks ago, sanitary pads bearing feminist messages began to appear around Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia as university students decided to copy a public art project started in Germany to draw attention to the challenges faced by women. This week, that act got them into trouble.  The four students who led the campaign have received a show-cause notice from the Chief Proctoral Office asking them to clarify their actions by March 31.

The action was “disciplinary in nature as the students skipped due processes without launching the campaign”, said Professor Mehtab Alam, the university's Chief Proctor. In other words, the students didn't get permission from the authorities for the act.

Alam clarified that the university doesn’t have an issue with the message but “the means used in the campaign could have been better”. According to Alam, one woman at the campus got “offended and complained to the guard saying Uncle vahan pe koi gandi cheez lagi hai and she disappeared. Observing that girl’s sentiments, the guard found the sanitary pad stuck around the campus and removed it.”

The official added that students must obtain permission before organising any campaign or event on campus. “The practice here is that students need to discuss it with authorities and write an application to obtain permissions from the concerned dean and the proctor’s office," Alam said. "Then we help the organisers to do it peacefully." But this campaign was organised "secretly and female students got offended by the act of these four students”, he said.

The show-cause notice, according to Alam, cites discipline clauses as the students are not allowed to “damage and spoil the premises of the university”.

Had the students obtained permission from the faculty beforehand, he would have helped them “prepare nice posters which would have made people think”, Alam said.

Are sanitary pads the problem in the university? “It is a problem everywhere, would you like to place it on your house?” Alam said. “These are private garments of women which can’t be put out publicly like this.”

The students who received the notice declined to comment.

St Stephen’s bans independent magazine

Across the city, news came to light that an independent college newspaper called St Stephen’s Weekly, started by four students of the college of that name, had folded up after four days. The first issue, posted online on March 7, carried an interview with the college principal, Valson Thampu. However, it was “banned” by the authorities because Thampu had not cleared the contents.

Devansh Mehta, the publisher of the e-zine, told that the problem arose when Thampu found the interview online before he had the chance to look at the transcript, which “had been sent to him one night before it was published”.

“We never tried to take permissions because we wanted to be insulated from authorities’ interference but the principal found a way to assert his influence,” he said.

According to Mehta, the college principal urged them to change the name of the publication from Stephen’s Weekly to St Stephen’s Weekly. “We obliged because we didn’t want to disobey him,” Mehta said. “But then he argued that we’d be under the purview of college administration for using the name of the college, which is blatant hypocrisy on his part.”

Calls and messages to Thampu for his comment went unanswered. But he told The Times of India  that the published piece was “bunkum”. He told the paper, "I told them I myself will be their staff adviser and that they shouldn't publish anything that's not cleared by the college. Even a pencil cannot be manufactured without a licence. The written word has its own sanctity and authority. I certainly want to ensure that what's published is of a standard.”

For Mehta, this has defeated the purpose of the magazine. “He [Thampu] appointed himself as a staff advisor and then wanted to look at the transcripts of the interview before it got published turning himself into an editor of the publication,” Mehta said.

The publishers claim that almost 2,000 people saw the magazine during its short existence. The website now only has a note saying, “St Stephen’s Weekly has been suspended by the principal for the time being.”