By Sneha Barua
Banaras Hindu University, one of the premium educational institutions of India has been erupting with extreme violence since Saturday amidst growing protests by the students of BHU.
What Exactly Is The Issue?
Apparently, a first year student of the University was molested by three unknown men on a bike inside the campus while she was returning to her hostel around 6:20pm on Thursday.
She alleged that she cried for help but the security guards who were not far away didn’t budge from their places to catch the molesters.
Later when she, along with her hostel mates, went to report the incident to the office proctor, the officials allegedly started victim shaming by questioning her character and making misogynistic comments on her by asking her what she was doing so late in the night (Assuming that 6 pm is indeed very late).
Infuriated by the administrations’ nonchalance, students, both male and female, started protesting by blocking the main entry gate of BHU. Their demand was pretty simple – they wanted to meet the Vice Chancellor, Mr. Girish Chandra Tripathi, at the protest site and put forward demands of carrying out basic security measures on campus to ensure the safety of the students.
Mr. Ramayan Patel, convener of the Joint Action Committee of the BHU students, on behalf of all students, demanded strict legal action against the molesters as well as against the irresponsible security personnel for sheer ignorance.
Other demands include lighting up of all the dark zones around the campus, installation of CCTV surveillance, relaxation of curfew timings for girls’ hostels which is currently 8pm and gender sensitization of the administrative staff so that such incidents are not repeated in future.
How did protests escalated to full fledged violence?
Despite of the demand of students to hold talks with the VC in front of everyone, Mr Tripathi agreed to talk to a select few inside his office which upset the students further. A delegation of teachers was sent to reason it out with the protesters but in vain.
Mr Tripathi gave a statement to The Hindu saying –
I have been asking them to send a written complaint since morning but have received none. We are willing to take action but let the students approach us first. They are staging a dharna on the streets which is wrong.
Tension brewed further as students started shouting slogans against the VC. Sources have reported that people from outside the University have also been joining the dharna staged at the front gate along with some with political affiliations.
With the students refusing to budge from their place and the police forming a barrier between the students and the VC’s house, some miscreants began causing arson. As a result, the police and the paramilitary forces broke into lathi charge, allegedly beating up men and women alike.
A video has been doing the rounds on the internet, wherein a male police personnel is caught barging into the girl’s hostel and brutally beating a girl student with a baton while the other girls escaped in time.
No female constable was seen to be around.
A number of other students and two journalists covering the protest were also reported sustaining injuries.
The protesters, in retaliation, started pelting stones on the police personnel.
The show of force by the police on girl students received widespread condemnation by politicians including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and President of Samajwadi Party, Akhilesha Yadav.
However, BHU Chief proctor, O.N. Singh, denied the allegations saying that there was no lathi charge and the police acted in self-defense as the protesters were pelting stones.
Molestation Not A First In BHU:
Cases of molestation and its likes have come up in the past as well but the sheer ignorance of the University administration has made matters worse.
Informed sources in the University say that there have been lots of cases of sexual harassment, beating up of boys and violence against professors in the last several months and the situation is deteriorating day by day.
Moreover, gender discrimination has been rampant inside the campus for years now.
Girl students have been reported saying that girls’ hostels are allowed to serve only vegetarian food whereas there is no such rule in the boys’ hostels.
Furthermore, there is no curfew for male students allowing them to roam freely around the campus all night.
With no restrictions on the entry of outsiders inside the University campus, it makes the campus a highly unsafe are for the students, especially girls.
The Way Forward
The worsening of this situation calls for a proper investigation of the issue instead of playing blame games. The University administration is required to view this issue disinterestedly taking the interests of the students in mind and take strict legal actions against the culprits.
Carrying out basic security measures suggested by the students is the need of the hour to ensure proper safety of the students because an educational institution acts as a second home for them.
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