The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Of Surveillance and Dumbed Silences

Aarushi Aggarwal, Batch of 2018.

School is over, but not really.

Picture clicked at the Atrium. We do not know who to source it to (if it has been clicked by you shoot us an email at

Ashoka is “liberal,” and more progressive about most matters than other colleges across the country especially ones that offer on campus housing. There is an attitude of general permissiveness and a modern outlook. However, the rules (sometimes arbitrary) are stringent and daily life mired in useless bureaucracy that benefits no one. Every student on campus has to experience this (I guess that is one sure way that Ashoka prepares us for life outside the bubble) but as a member of the House I can assure you that this bureaucracy is more entrenched that you would like to believe. In a space where questioning inside the classroom is not only encouraged but also appreciated, outside the “safe” spaces of the classrooms, questioning the authorities is either met with sharp rebuke, at best, or no replies, at worst.

The last student government had worked very hard to do away with the unyielding arbitrary leave-book signing out system that required students to run around incessantly in search of (for the most part) uncooperative signatures. The debate was between ID card scanners and biometric machines. Despite my private protestations against the latter, I was largely content with what was a gigantic leap in de-surveilling student movement, or at least at the time. Although part-I of the old system: obtaining wardens’ signatures was done away with, the signing of registers at the gate was retained with no plausibly intelligent explanation. (I was told recently that the biometric registration is a three step process which allows room for errors and data getting lost.) At present there are nearing five registers at the gate; UG-girls Hostel I, Hostel II, UG boys, PG, etc. It could take you potentially five minutes to understand which compartment Ashoka wants you in. Ironically enough, there is constant conversation around improving interaction between the different student bodies but the compartmentalisation and different treatment do not help that. Not just that, every time I try to step outside the gate there are new rules enacted overnight — mind you, with no communication whatsoever to the students — and implemented harshly by the guards who refuse to reveal who gave them those orders. Despite the conclusion of a recent meeting with the Campus Life Minister and the Residence Life team that the resisters would be done away with, they are very much present and will continue to be for a long time.

As was recently noted by a fellow House member in a meeting, Ashoka has an easy solution to most problems. Alcohol abuse: ban campus parties. Quiet hours violation: do away with free access. It is almost as though what the students fought for was an honour being bestowed upon them. A loan with conditions and rules, almost as if being able to choose where I want to be with whom and what time is a privilege. This word is hot on campus at the moment, and where it is applicable I will admit to it but “free access” is not a privilege. Freedom of movement is a right, granted by the constitution of the country. Denying it is equivalent to posing as a bastion of the imported and annoyingly self-righteous Victorian models of behaviour and morality that we have come to loathe through our education. While I can understand that Ashoka is answerable to parents, I believe that if I can marry and vote at eighteen years, I can surely perform actions without needing the consent of my parents. I am not propagating or supporting rebellion, but merely making a case for why our education is a waste if we are going to be social justice warriors and not make an actual difference; even if that difference has to start from our parents. Clearly, we students need to learn how to fight our battles — actively, not through Facebook posts or tweets.

In my previous article I wrote about the paradox that our education brings into our life outside of Ashoka. But I was wrong. The paradox is right here, we live with it every second of our lives on campus. One step out of the classroom and you occupy a world designed for you by someone else, to forward someone else’s agenda through rules that remind you time and over again that school is over but not really.

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