This article originally appeared on VICE India.
If you thought surveillance societies are the stuff of dystopian novels and shows like Black Mirror, think again.
During their exams, the male student body of Dharam Samaj Degree College in Aligarh, a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, were surprised to find CCTV cameras installed in the men’s toilets. The chief proctor of the college, Subhash Choudhary, told VICE that the cameras have been placed in the toilet to reduce cheating during the ongoing exams. “No teacher will sit in the toilet to keep an eye on students, as they stink terribly. The naughty boys are not afraid of of fourth division employees and of course, you can’t stop people from peeing.”
This had led to a mounting protest from the students who feel this is an incredible invasion of privacy. Curiously enough, it’s only the men’s toilets that have cameras installed.
The proctor added that before the cameras were installed, the toilets were flooded by hidden chits, notes and other cheating material. “The cameras are placed on the back side. Students don’t talk to each other while peeing as they fear they would be caught and not be able to give the exam.” According to the Times of India, the Principal Hem Prakash Gupta stood by the decision on the grounds that the camera focus only on urinals and "captured the rear side of the people using it."
Ranjeet Chaudhary, 26, a second year law student and district president of [the political] Samajwadi Party’s youth wing told VICE that the students have voiced their concerns to the college administration.
“I went there to give my exam but didn’t believe at first when I got know about this. The boys, of course, hesitate to go to pee when there are cameras installed in the toilets. They don’t even know if it’s working or not, but there is a fear somebody might be watching us people”, he said, adding that he fervently believed that at least toilets should be free of surveillance.
Another student at the college, Sonu Thakur, 25, told VICE this is a case of blatant gender discrimination. “The male students are being targeted. Don’t girls cheat in exams? Can't you leave us alone in the toilet? Ye hamari izzat ka sawaal hai [our honour is at stake]”.
The toilets aren’t simply a space to expel waste, it’s also an area for camaraderie. “Just imagine, if I am teasing my friend while peeing and if he turns around, it would be seen by the CCTV. Ye to bahut ghalat hoga na? [this would be very bad no?]”, he said.
“Think of the shame, if a lady proctor sees us in the toilet on the screen on the pretext of curbing cheating,” Thakur exclaimed. He also added that the university had an anti-cheating team of 22 that checked the students thrice during exams. “We are being checked at the gate, in class and during the exam. It’s administrative failure if they can’t prevent cheating even then”, he argued.
According to Thakur, the students have warned the administration to remove the cameras or they would be forced the break them.
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This article originally appeared on Motherboard IN.