Students and teachers of Delhi University’s Jesus and Mary College on Thursday protested outside the police headquarters seeking strict action against the rampant sexual harassment during Holi.
The protestors, including activists from the Centre for Struggling Women, demanded stringent action against hooligans who have been targeting women with water balloons and semen-filled balloons ahead of Holi. They submitted a memorandum demanding greater police patrolling and prevention of “unruly Holi processions”. The other demands included a ban on the sale of balloons and harmful chemical colours in the National Capital Region before Holi.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma later addressed the protesters, and assured them that action would be taken.
Assistant Professor Maya John said a student of Jesus Mary College was hit with a semen-filled balloon on Wednesday, just days after a student from Lady Shri Ram College was attacked in a similar manner. On Wednesday, the students’ union of Lady Shri Ram College approached the Delhi Police and sought increased patrolling in the college vicinity.
“There are also several complaints of women becoming victims of forcefully thrown colours, dirt and water-filled balloons,” John wrote in a statement on Thursday. “While such hooliganism is borne by the public at large, it is women who are particularly targeted, and on whose complaints little action is taken.”
John said women were forced to stop going out of their homes as the festival nears. “For a good ten days before the actual date of the festival, women are particularly targeted by lumpen elements. The various forms of assault are supposedly part of the “festive” mood surrounding Holi, but more often than not, such attacks stem from desire to harass women.”
She added that the incidents reflect a mindset that women are “easy targets because they generally do not speak out or complain due to fear or the embarrassment and shock attached to such sudden assaults”.
The Delhi Police’s failure to act promptly against such hooligans has only made the situation worse, John said. “Ultimately, advertisements and hoardings asking people to play ‘consensual’ Holi is completely ineffective on the ground.”
In the days leading up to Holi, women from across Delhi often report being hit by water balloons from rooftops and by men on bikes. This year, the attacks were brought into the spotlight after a psychology student of Lady Shri Ram College described on social media her experience of being hit by a “liquid-filled balloon” on her way back from lunch.
She said she had just started for college from Amar Colony when a “liquid-filled balloon” hit her hip. “It dried white on my black leggings, and the foreign smell clearly indicated that it wasn’t water,” she wrote, adding that she did not know what it was until a friend told her “semen-flinging...was currently the Holi fad in the back market area”.
On Wednesday morning, a BA history student of the college also alleged she was hit by a semen-filled balloon near Amar Colony, an area near the campus. The same evening, another student reported she had three balloons thrown at her from a balcony.