The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has been on the boil following alleged molestation of a student on 21stSeptember, by three men and the university officials refused to take action and blamed the victim, instead.
What have been the circumstances?
The protest is on going for quiet afew days. This began midnight on 21st September, Thursday, after three men riding on a motorbike molested a student, pursuingBachelor of Fine Arts degree of the Mahila Mahavidyala of BHU.
The alleged molesters hurled abuses, passed lewd remarks, and touched the victim inappropriately only a few metres from where a security guard was present. The girl, the protesters said, cried for help but the security guard did not move to make an attempt.
The girl was traumatised when she reached her hostel. When her hostel-mates gave her assurance, she narrated the entire incident to them. Concerned over everyday eve-teasing and frequent molestation of the girls on the campus, a group of students of the hostel went to report the matter to the warden.
The girls complain that instead of listening to their grievances, the warden blamed the victim for the incident. “What were you doing outside your hostel so late?” the warden allegedly asked the victim as reported by India Today.
Infuriated by the warden’s moral policing and indifferent stand, the girls sat on a dharna outside his office at around midnight on 21st September. The women staged a bigger dharna at the Lanka Gate of the BHU campus on 22nd September, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Varanasi.
22nd September was a stressful day:omen from other hostels and courses also joined the protest. The protesters demanded action from the Vice Chairman,Girish Chandra Tripathi, who wanted to meeta few of the protesting girls in his office chambers, as claimed by the women. “What happens is that the VC calls around 10 students and warns them against raising their demands. The students are suspended without giving a chance of resting their case. The matter ends there. We are concerned about our safety,” Akansha Singh, one of the girls who was protesting, told India Today.
Later, BHU issued a statement saying that the protest by the girls demanding safety on the campus was politically motivated. This comes into light although, unlike Delhi University or Jawaharlal Nehru University, BHU doesn’t have a students union. Teaching staff too don’t declare political affiliations.
After the violence on Saturday, the girls took out a silent march. But the police apparently had an issue with this as well, brutally chasing the protesters away, allegedly with batons. Yet the girls continued to lead the march, supported by many male students as well. The demands of the students were simple – they want installation of CCTV cameras, proper lighting of the campus and gender sensitisation of university staff and security personnel.
Did the administration do anything so far?
Beside making sexist and discriminatory statements (In an interview to The Indian Express, Tripathi justified the discriminatory policies against women students, particularly with regard to hostel curfews on the grounds that, “security for boys and girls can never be at par.”),U.P Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath sought a report from the commissioner of Varanasi on the entire episode.
The government has so far removed five officials for negligence of duty and transferred them to other places.An internal inquiry, found them responsible for alleged disturbance and violence, thus removed to ensure fair enquiry. Meanwhile, 1200 students have been booked for violence.
Chief Proctor, O.P Singh, resigned from his post, and the government appoints BHU’s first woman Chief Proctor, Royana Singh.
However, this is not a rare instance in Banaras Hindu University’s history. According to a report by Huffington Post, there has been a surge in cases related to sexual crimes and harassment in recent years, ever since the current Vice-Chancellor, Girish Chandra Tripathi, took office. In 2016, there were cases of sexual assault, including gang rape of a male student and complaints of harassment made even by female faculty members. The frequency of such severe crimes points to the authorities and administration’s lack of seriousness in addressing safety issues. This is particularly the case with women, who already face a spate of curfews and curtailment of freedoms. Calling these restrictions ‘strict’ would be a understatement, for they apparently treat adult women like tender creatures of pristineness and purity, who shouldn’t go out to for their own safety. Consider some of the statements of the Vice-Chancellor, like “Consumption of non-vegetarian food makes women impure according to the Malviya values,” “Girls who study in the night are immoral,” and “Don’t think like a journalist, think like a father. Think of what ‘appropriate clothes’ would mean to a father,’’ upon being asked what constitutes “appropriate clothes” in this Youth Ki Awaaz interview, where his sexism is on open display. Through absurd rules like no phone calls post 10 p.m., no internet connection in rooms, and deadlines on venturing out, in the name of “protecting women”, they are being robbed off their freedom. Depriving a whole section of the society from thinking for themselves and allowing them the same freedoms as men is deplorable, and it is even more shameful when it happens in the constituency of the same man who tweeted, “Women empowerment is crucial to India’s growth. Days of seeing women as ‘home makers’ have gone, we have to see women as nation builders”. Keeping aside the dismissal of homemakers for a moment, one is presumed to think that the way things are, “nation-building” will only be done till 8p.m. – the hostel curfew time.
Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express
Ankita Dhar Karmakar