Prominent alumni of the Banaras Hindu University including professor Anant Kumar, academic-activist Sandeep Pandey and writer, Subhash Gatade have written to President of India, also Visitor to the University to urge steps to reign in the administration, ensure Accountability mechanisms (especially in cases related to sexual harassment), lift criminal cases against students. In short intervene to restore the prestige if an institution gone awry.
The President of India
Banaras Hindu University
Sub : On recent agonising developments in Banaras Hindu University
We alumni of Banaras Hindu University would like to convey to you our sense of concern about the recent developments at our alma mater namely Banaras Hindu University. Developments which have brought forward the issue of safety and security of girl students on the campus and administrations callous attitude towards it.
We are pained to learn that the administration refused to take any action against sexual harassment of a first year student at the hands of three bike borne men near Bharat Bhavan when she was returning to the hostel at around 6 p.m. (21 st September). It is tremendously distubing to learn that higher officials rather tried to shame her only allegedly by saying that 'why she was out till that time' or 'they (molesters) have only touched you and not done anything else'.
Media reports tell us that there was nothing unusual about the response of these officials, in fact, gender discrimination has been rather normalised in this august institution. Restrictions have been put on the 24 hours cyber library started on campus by earlier VC (Vice Chancellor) predecessor, as the present VC believes that students use the facility to watch pornography. Girls' hostel gates are shut at 6 pm, they are not to use mobile phones after 8 pm, are not served non-vegetarian food in the mess and are required to sign a statement declaring that they'll not participate in any protest against the university. According the VC such steps are necessary to make them 'cultured'. All this has allowed breeding of a culture on campus which has become oppressive for the girls and on the other hand indulging in misdemeanour by truant men is ignored or incidents are covered up.
We feel that it is a travesty of justice that when the pent up anger of the girl students against regular incidents of sexual harassment on the campus and institutionalised gender discrimination exploded in the form of a peaceful dharana at the University gates - which drew widespread support - the administration not only tried to browbeat them by using time tested methods of repression, brutalisation, criminalisation but has also tried to stigmatise it by saying that ánti-national' elements are behind it. As of now cases against more than 1,200 unknown students have been lodged by the police under various criminal provisions.
We learn that despite video proof of police highhandedness - where male police were seen brutalising girl students and other women staff -the administration led by the Vice Chancellor G C Tripathy is still maintaining that violence unleashed on students is mere propaganda and the whole issue was blown up out of proportion by oppositional elements. In fact, a section of the ruling establishment is trying to belittle the historic significance of this spontaneous movement of girl students mostly coming from poor and middle class families from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar- which is reverberating across campuses across the country - against gender oppression and discrimination, which has completely exposed the hollowness of the 'Beti Bachao - Beti Padhao' slogan, as handiwork of 'leftist elements'.
It has been widely reported that the district administration itself holds a very different view of the situation and has blamed the University administration itself for the violence. In his report, the commissioner has emphasised that the University administration did not deal with victim complaint in a sensitive manner, and didn’t handle the situation on time, leading to the protests.'
Anyone conversant with the campus life would admit today that with the ascendance of the present Vice Chancellor to the top post situation on the campus has gone from bad to worse. His anti-academic, regressive, arrogant attitude has vitiated the atmosphere of BHU, and the University needs to be saved from its own VC.
Dear Sir, if this prestigious university, which has been a product of our independence movement, is still allowed to be governed by the present Vice Chancellor - whose only qualification seems to be closeness to a particular ideology - the situation may become further worse. It is high time that urgent steps are taken to save the University from regressive elements:
- We demand that either the present VC either leaves the university immediately taking moral responsibility for mishandling this episode or is sacked with immediate effect. And since the proctorial board has proved itself inept in handling the situation, it be sacked immediately
- We also demand that all cases lodged against students be immediately withdrawn.
- We demand immediate lightening all roads, installation of CC TV cameras and formalising a proper security infrastructure which can provide security at various points in the campus.
- We demand that the University forms a committee in light of directives of the Supreme Court and High Court in Vishakha case for solving problems of girl students and hostel inmates and which should have proper representation of girl students as well as other women associated with the university at various levels
Endorsed by Alumni of Banaras Hindu University
1. Prof Anand Kumar, Prof (retd) Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
2. Sandeep Pandey, Social Activist. Lucknow
3. Neeraj Jain, Convener, Lokayat, Pune
4. Subhash Gatade, Writer and Activist, Delhi
5. Abhishek Srivastava, Journalist, Delhi
6. Panini Anand, Journalist, Delhi
7. Ranganath Singh, Journalist, Delhi
8. Siddhanth Mohan, Journalist, Varanasi
9. Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi, social activist, Varanasi