Let equality prevail in libraries, at least

Published: Nov 12, 2014, 07:28 IST | Ranjona Banerji |

The vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University cannot open the Maulana Azad library to female students because, “there would be four times more boys” in the library if that happened

The vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University cannot open the Maulana Azad library to female students because, “there would be four times more boys” in the library if that happened. The library is already “jam-packed” with boys, we are told by the principal of the Women’s College. There might be disciplinary problems if females are allowed into a library which men use, we are told. And women have kindly been given their own space and enough books for their femaleness, we have also been told. And post-graduate students of all sexes have timings when they can go says the University’s public relations department.

No entry: The vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Zameer Uddin Shah, stirred up a controversy with his comments that the Maulana Azad library cannot be opened to female students because, “there would be four times more boys” in the library if that happened. Pic/Getty Images

pic/Getty Images

The purpose of a library however is not of much significance here either for the VC of the University or for the principal of Women’s College. The fact is that the library has “boys” in it and girls want to get in and what could be more frightening than that?

The question some people might ask is, does the library have anything other than boys and girls who want to get in? Like books, for instance? Turns out that these girls are not satisfied with the books they have access to. They want those books that the boys read, jam-packed in this particular library, looking to create disciplinary problems.

This only proves how ridiculous and unreasonable girls can be. They have a college. They have books. Why can’t they be satisfied with that? Instead for some years now, female students have been demanding more.

This has been the problem with all these liberation movements so far. You give women an inch and they want a mile.

You give them a college and they want a bigger and better library. There’s just no satisfying them. You can substitute women with any other group that feels it hasn’t got its due and the result is the same: Black, Dalit, gay and so on — You give them a chance to ride on a bus they want a seat next to you. Never grateful.

There are some nuances at work here and it is the nuances that create discrimination. Apparently, the library will send over books that Women’s College students want to read. They can also visit the Maulana Azad Library at some specified timings. But the female students want to go to the library, browse and be members. They want not just to be allowed on the bus, they want to sit wherever they want. Like the men or the white people or the upper castes or the heterosexuals. They want to be treated like equals. They do not want a few sops here and there.

Barring places where there is extreme gender selection at birth, women make up half the human population. Oh dear, are you tired of reading this? Too bad. Half. That’s as many as the men people. Half. And yet, despite all the things men and women can do together it is sitting in a library for long periods of time at the same time that can
create disciplinary problems. That is why it is easier to envelope women in yards of fabric, hide their faces, stop them from wearing jeans, stop them from using mobile phones and stop them from leaving home.

Who knows what the boys think and whether they will be undisciplined or not. These gems have come from adult men and women who sound like academic administrators who would rather duck the real issue — how to allow all students to be equal members of a library — and so provide some roadside diversionary entertainment.

However it is fair to concede that the male students of the Aligarh Muslim University are very diligent. All too often no one goes to a library and many young people I have met have never even heard of one, let alone a book. The college that I went to in Calcutta had a large and historically well-stocked library. Boys and girls had the same privileges and yet, well, it was, er, peaceful.

Maybe if they let everyone in, this library might become as peaceful?

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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