New Delhi| It is unprecedented in the history of Banaras Hindu University that such a large number of girl students staged a continuous protest for days demanding a safe and gender-sensitive campus. This protest highlights that girl students continue to feel insecure and they are forced to negotiate with an administration and social environment which is non-responsive to their grievances. A chronology of events leading to the ongoing girl students is presented below:
September 21, 2017: A second-year fine arts girl student was allegedly molested outside her hostel inside the BHU campus at around 6.20 PM evening. Two men on a motorbike came from behind molested her and speed away. The security guards, who were a few metres away from her, did not responded despite her cried out for help. Due to evening darkness, the victim could not see the number on the motorbike. When the concerned student reported the incident to her hostel warden and Chief Proctor but they started shaming her by questioning character.
September 22, 2017: Students begun their protest with staging a demonstration the Lanka gate of BHU given the insensitivity of the administration to the alleged molestation incident and attempts of the university security staffs and warden to blame the victim for the incident. The victim shaved her head in protest and joined the demonstration as her complaints to the warden and the chief proctor has not received due and urgent attention. While a delegation of teachers met the protesting students, the Vice-Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi dismissed the protest stating the same is motivated politically by outsiders to create a sensation given the impending visit of Mr. Modi to his Lok Sabha constituency. The protesting students demanded a hearing by the VC till then they decided to continue their protest.
September 23, 2017: Slowly the protest against the incident of alleged molestation turn wide and deep and become a protest demanding a safe and gender-sensitive campus given girl students’ longstanding grievances related to such cases. Girl students demanded strict action in cases of molestation, the constitution of GSCASH (Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment), deployment of female security guards, lighting up of dark areas in the campus, installation of CCTV cameras and relaxation of curfew timings for girls’ hostels. The scale of protest grew with hundreds or students joining the protest.
In the Saturday evening of September 23, the VC office has called a few (4 to 5) girl students for discussing their demands but protesting students wanted to speak to the VC in front of everyone. In response, the VC went to Triveni Hostel to meet students present there (read rival student groups), ignoring the protesting girl students. This action of the VC added fuel to the fire and protesting girls started raising slogans against the VC.
In the late night of September 23, police launched a crackdown on a protest by lathi-charging on protesting students to forcefully dispersing them from the HBU main gate and outside the VC’s residence. The male police members even entered girls’ hostel to target resident students and they even didn’t spare members of the media covering the protest. In this brutal crackdown, mostly women students were beaten, abused and got injured during the “lathicharge” by male cops. Importantly, the lathicharge was ordered just hours after PM Modi’s departure from Varanasi to New Delhi.
September 24, 2017: A crowd of thousand covering students, journalist and general public undertook peaceful march from Ravidas Gate to Lanka Gate against police lathi-charge on female students. The District Magistrate has agreed on two of the demands of the protestor, namely strict action against officers involved in brutal lathi-charge, rubber bullets firing and violence and conducting fast inquiry and arrest in the molestation incident of September 21. Protest erupted in several universities as well as civil society against lathicharge on BHU girl students. The UP police, on the other hand, has filed FIR against 1,200 students for inciting violence and arson inside the varsity campus and detained more than a dozen students.
September 25, 2017: The UP government removed three senior officials including Station Officer (SO) Lanka, CO Bhelupur and one Additional City Magistrate for lathicharge on students and failing to handle the violence. The CP CM Yogi Adityanath has sought a report from the Divisional Commissioner regarding the baton-charge by the police on protesting BHU women students.
BHU VC Girish Chandra Tripathi claimed in media report that this incident has been triggered by some people with vested interests and ulterior motives. He claimed that no girl or student feels unsafe anywhere on campus.
The opposition leaders unanimously condemned the use of prutal force against protesting BHU girl students and demanded action against police offers responsible and VC Mr. Tripathi. The Congress demanded that VC should be sacked immediately and let this incident be probed by a sitting High Court judge.