Punjab University got its first transgender student when Dhananjay Mangalmukhi enrolled herself in a postgraduate course last year.
However, a year later, she sees the future of her academic journey hanging in the air with university’s recent fee hike stance.
A postgraduate student of human rights, she says, “I am paying around ₹20,000 per semester presently. After the fee hike, this is likely to increase up to ₹30,000 per semester.”
“Other students, even if economically weaker, have their families and relatives as a support system but as a transgender, I am all alone with no income source,” she adds.
With the help of other transgenders, Dhananjay managed to pay her fees last year. However, she says they won’t help her this time because she no longer accompanies them for ‘duayee’ (collecting money by visiting homes).
“My friends go for duayee at eight in the morning but I have my classes from 9am till 1pm. I can’t go with them and moreover, I don’t like it. How is it different from begging?” she asks.
"Let's see how things move. I am still hopeful," she adds.
On being asked whether she supports the violence that broke out at the campus on Tuesday, Dhananjay says it cannot be justified. “The demands could have been presented in a peaceful manner. Boycott classes, take out marches, send delegations to the governor, MHRD, chief minister and others but violence serves no purpose,” she says.
The university, for long, has been facing acute shortage of funds and the staff wasn’t paid salaries for a long time. The University Grant Commission has reportedly asked it to generate its own funds and to mitigate this, PU resorted to increase the academic fee.
“The authorities could have increased the fee gradually every year. This is an abrupt increase. Many students are worried how they will fund their studies. For some courses, the fee has been increased up to ₹1 lakh. A gradual increase would have provided students and parents a cushion to absorb the shock,” says Dhananjay.