Banaras Hindu University on the boil

Sources shared a video with The Hindu, claiming that it had been shot by students.

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:37 am IST

Published - September 24, 2017 11:24 am IST - NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW

Banaras Hindu University students stage a protest in New Delhi on Saturday.

Banaras Hindu University students stage a protest in New Delhi on Saturday.

Banaras Hindu University (BHU), one of the premier higher educational institutions of India, is on the boil since Saturday night, with police reportedly lathi-charging students protesting molestation on the campus.

Sources in the university claimed girl students were attacked in the lathi charge, with a student also sustaining injuries on the head and in the leg.

“A large number of girls were sitting on a dharna for two days after a case of molestation, with the girl fainting after the incident. There were no direct talks with the Vice-Chancellor, though representatives were sent to reason out with the girls. By the evening, boys began to join in, including some with political affiliations. There was slogan shouting and some boys said they would ensure protection of girls on campus, but girls refused to budge from the protest,” said an informed source in the university who did not wish to be named. “At that moment, someone torched a vehicle, leading to a lathi charge by male policemen.”

Sources shared a video with The Hindu , claiming that it had been shot by students.

University sources not wishing to be named also said that boys from hostels came out in large numbers in support of the girls, pelting stones at the police. Tear gas was allegedly used by the police to disperse the crowds.

 

Apart from the torched vehicle, some motorcycles were also reportedly set on fire. A source in BHU not wishing to be named said a few girls were taken to hospital for treatment of their injuries.

Informed sources in the university say that the situation has been deteriorating in the last several months, with cases of sexual harassment, beating up of boys in the hostels and even threats of violence against professors.

With the situation becoming very tense on Saturday night, there are reports that there is a move to close the campus – which was about to have a short Dussehra break days from now – till October 2.

 

BHU students stage dharna

Earlier, scores of students of the Banaras Hindu University on Friday staged a dharna in the campus against the alleged victim-blaming of a women student who was molested by two unknown persons while returning to her hostel. The students, both male and female, assembled at the Lanka gate of BHU early on Friday and staged a chakka jam, blocking entry to the campus through the main gate for a few hours.

According to the victim’s complaint to the chief proctor, she was returning to her hostel from her department at around 6:20 pm on Thursday when near the Bharat Kala Bhawan two men on a motorbike came from behind and molested her before speeding away. “As it was dark, I could not see the number on the motorbike,” the second-year BFA student said. She mentions that she was wearing a salwar suit during the incident. She claimed that she cried out for help but the security guards, who were a few metres away from her, ignored her. Later, when the student approached the guards along with her hostel mates, the guards allegedly responded with misogynist remarks and snubbed her for not walking carefully while moving alone in the dark. The student also alleged that apart from facing-victim blaming, her character was also questioned when she informed the hostel warden about the incident.

Furious over the inaction, students staged a demonstration at the BHU gate, holding placards that read, “Stop victim blaming,” and shouted slogans against the university administration. The victim also joined the demonstration and shaved off her hair in protest. The students alleged that the administration tried to push the matter under the carper citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled visit to his Lok Sabha constituency.

Students demand Vice-Chancellor to meet them

They demanded that the vice-chancellor meet them in person at the protest site and assure them of action against the culprits, after their complaints to the warden and the chief proctor bore no result.

Ramayan Patel, convenor of the Joint Action Committee of the BHU students, demanded strict legal action against the culprits and action against the “irresponsible” security personnel, lighting up of all the dark zones in the campus and continuous roundup of guards and installation of CCTV cameras. He also said the students demanded a relaxation of curfew timings for girls’ hostels, which is at present 8pm, and gender sensitization of administrative staff.

When contacted, BHU vice-chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi dismissed the incident saying that he was yet to receive a formal written complaint from the alleged victim. He alleged that barring a few, the students protesting were not from the BHU but outsiders motivated politically to create a sensation given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to his constituency.

“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,” Mr Tripathi told The Hindu .

He said he had sent a delegation of teachers to communicate with the protesting students.

Mr. Tripathi said despite the large size of the BHU campus he was willing to address the “genuine problems” of the students, hinting at addressing the issue of curfew timings of the girls’ hostels.

“But the purpose of this dharna is something else...politically motivated. PM Modi is visiting Varanasi. What better time for them,” Mr. Tripathi said.

Till Friday evening, the student protest was still on. Roshan Pandey, a third-year B.A student, who was a part of the protest, said: “We submitted our complaint to the VC through the delegation he sent but he has not appeared himself. The students demand that he come before us. The movement will continue till then.”

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