Female students of BHU rise for their rights

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By Tasneem Parveen

 Past few years have witnessed a number of unrest and protests in university campuses across the country, including JNU, DU, JU, FTII, NIT Srinagar, Hyderabad Central University, etc. The latest in the list is Banaras Hindu University (BHU), one of the renowned and Asia’s largest residential campus.

BHU is on the boil after a molestation case of a 1st year student surfaced. The student of Arts faculty was allegedly harassed by two motorbike-borne men inside the campus while she was returning to her hostel. The victim has accused that the security guard who was only 10 m away from the place of the incident did nothing to stop them. The victim also stated that the guard on duty smiled and said “this will happen if you roam after 6:00” to justify his inaction. A similar shameful response was obtained from the warden who went on to question the victim for being late rather than comforting her torment.

The incident took place on 21st September at around 6 pm. On the same day, students submitted a memorandum to the university dean and proctor against routine eve-teasing in the campus. The memorandum states how female students of BHU face lewd comments and sexually abusive gestures inside the campus.

They demanded security measures like installation of CCTV cameras, better lighting system, and the inclusion of females in the proctorial body and deployment of adequate and capable security guards. The agitating students demanded prompt and direct assurance on the part of Vice-chancellor to address the issue. However, the administration interpreted the whole issue as a plot to reinstate student union body and a conspiracy fuelled by moderators to infiltrate the cultural dogma of BHU.

“We won’t allow BHU to become JNU” was the initial response from the larger body.  Some including the vice chancellor predicted that the issue premediated to disrupt and malign the Prime Minister’s visit to his home constituency. In order to crackdown on the outside influence of the agitation police action was initiated, the vice chancellor reported on a national news channel. According to him, outsiders who are not part of BHU are involved in the whole incident and the agitation was politically motivated. The campus witnessed police lathi-charge at midnight to dispel the agitation.

The police brutal action inside the university campus was criticized by most student bodies in India and abroad. However, BHU vice-chancellor has denied the incident of lathi-charge on students. On lathi-charge, he said that the action was taken only against violent protestors. However, video evidence and protestors maintained that the protest was completely peaceful when the police attacked all of a sudden.

Prof. Girish Chandra Tripathi, VC of the BHU, told The Hindu, “I have been asking them for a written complaint since morning but got nothing from them. We are ready to take action but let the students approach us first. They are staging a dharna on the street. That is not the right way.”

Following the incident, the university administration declared holidays before the earlier scheduled date which was September 28.

Varanasi commissioner Nitin Gokarn, meanwhile, submitted a report on Tuesdayto the chief secretary Rajiv Kumar and raised questions on university administration. A senior administrative official said that the “university did not deal with the victim’s complaint in a sensitive manner and did not handle the situation on time.”

Regarding lathi-charge and students protest, the commissioner blamed the University for failing to handle the situation properly. The BHU administration has decided to construct a judicial inquiry into the incident. The investigation would be conducted by a team headed by V.K Dixit a retired judge of the Allahabad High court.

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