The ritual, held despite being banned by the college administration, involves worship of a ‘Virgin Tree’. It has been called ‘misogynistic’ and ‘homophobic’
EVERY YEAR ON February 14, Delhi’s Hindu College finds itself in the spotlight. Valentine’s Day has been celebrated at the college for decades, but the practice, over the years, has morphed into something rather ugly.
The boys’ hostel customarily celebrates by decorating a tree on campus with condoms filled with water. Calling this tree the “Virgin Tree”, they then put up a poster of an actress who is named as Damdami Mai and “worship” her with an aarti. The boys then bathe in the water from the condoms.
This practice has drawn ire for objectifying women and perpetuating misogynistic, casteist and patriarchal ideas. As a result, this year, anticipating the “Virgin Tree puja”, the college administration said the tradition should be discontinued. But things didn’t go according to plan.
On Sunday, a call for protest outside Hindu College was given by several organisations and gender forums of colleges acrosas Delhi University. The protesters primarily demanded disciplinary action against those students who went ahead with the controversial celebration despite several rounds of negotiation between the boys’ and girls’ hostels, and direct intervention from the administration.
The students began gathering at Gate 1 of the college at around 1 pm, after which it was promptly closed. Police and CRPF personnel were deployed around the college gate.
The students shouted slogans accusing the college administration of colluding with students of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad who were allegedly involved in conducting the puja and hanging objectionable posters.
The gathering dispersed after a performance by the theatre group Dastak.
Students told Newslaundry that members of the girls’ hostel and some other students were unhappy with what happened, and want strict disciplinary action to be taken against the students involved. Some students staged a protest outside the college’s administrative block at about 1.30 pm, demanding quick and stringent action.
Hindu College isn’t the only one to have regressive traditions related to Valentine’s Day. The boys’ hostel at St Stephen’s College used to have an “ANGA oath” — ANGA being the Allnutt North Gentlemen’s Association – until recently. Members would take a pledge where they promise to “promote among them all misogyny”. This practice was effectively banned by the college administration last year.