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BHU protest: From 'sexist' rules to unruly force and political mudslinging

A demonstration by BHU students, mostly women, seeking safety for women, escalated into a full-blown political drama after security personnel used force to disperse the protestors

Kumar Akash  |  New Delhi 

BHU molestation case
Students and police in a stand-off in Varanasi late Saturday night.

Tensions between the police and protesting women students at the (BHU) campus in Varanasi turned violent late on Saturday after police used force to disperse the crowd.

The trigger of the issue was a female BHU student's allegation that she had been molested by three bike-borne men outside the campus on Thursday. She had alleged that the security guards, who were only 100 metres away from the place of incident, did nothing to stop the miscreants.
Following this, the century-old institution has been witness to demonstrations by students (mostly females) against the rising eve-teasing incidents on the campus.

'Girls inviting rape by coming late to hostel'

The protests began on Friday when a group of women started a dharna at the entrance of the campus, following the proctor office’s refusal to take action on the molestation complaint.

The warden of the hostel is learnt to have countered the student, asking her as to why she returned late to the hostel. One of the security guards is said to have told the girls that were inviting rape by coming late in the evening. This is despite the fact that the incident took place at 6 pm, two hours before the official 8 pm deadline for the girls' hostel.

Angered by the warden's response, the students tried to visit Vice-Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi at his residence, but they were stopped by the security guards. When the students tried to push their way through, the forces lathi-charged to disperse them.

The students alleged that the police thrashed them and dragged them by the hair, but the Varanasi divisional commissioner, who was present at the spot, denied the claims.

'Nobody cares about our safety'

Business Standard spoke to one of the students who, requesting not to be named, said, "We were demanding basic things like safety of girls at the campus, installation of CCTV, 24x7 security patrolling around girls hostels and gender equality assurance from Tripathi and his administration. 

"We want such measures so that instances of sexual assault on girls do not recur. Instead, we were brutally assaulted by security forces, in complete disregard for our concerns, as if we were criminals. Women of this country suffer atrocities because nobody cares about our safety."

She also said that some politicians turned this situation into a political blame-game only to make a profit out of this.

vice-chancellor's take on the issue

Vice-Chancellor Tripathi said the girls associated with organisations from the Delhi University and Allahabad University had instigated girls for the demonstration, and "there were only a few girls," reported Hindustan Times.

Tripathi also said that the administration formed a committee to investigate the unrest.

However, on Saturday night, issued a statement, saying the dharna being held just a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit was "politically motivated" to malign the image of the university.

Turning the situation into a political war 

Safety of female students became a political war of words, as Samajwadi Party chief and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, as well as Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, made scathing attacks on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister

Yadav tweeted, "The government should resolve situations by negotiations and not force. Lathi-charge on students is unacceptable. The culprits must be punished."

Gandhi said in a tweet:

Meanwhile, CM Adityanath said, "I have sought a report from the Divisional Commissioner, Varanasi, about the entire incident," reported news agency Press Trust of India.

However, the protests at the university coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to his Lok Sabha constituency.

alumni cry for help

Manu Sharma, a alumni, said in a Facebook post, "We are living in a country where the defence minister is a woman, and in the same country, girls are being beaten up by government forces like criminals for demanding safety." 

Another alumnus, Rudra Pratap Singh, said, "Even after 70 years of Independence, the situation in our country is grave for women. We don't give respect, freedom and equality to our women." He will request the authorities to take stern action against the miscreants and hope that the government will sack the vice-chancellor and his team for brutally assaulting girl students. 

The Uttar Pradesh government has removed three additional city magistrates and two policemen in connection with the lathi-charge. The university will be shut until October 2.

First Published: Mon, September 25 2017. 15:30 IST