On September 22, Varanasi witnessed one of the biggest student protest in the Banaras Hindu University. The protests started after an incident of sexual harassment inside the campus on September 21. When the victim approached the University security board and other officials to complain about the incident, her whereabouts were questioned and she was instructed to remain silent on the issue.
A month after student protests and the brutal crackdown of the same by Varanasi police and University administrations, it is clear that little has changed for the better inside the campus.
A visit to the campus and conversations with students showed us that the administration is yet to address issues which helped three male students harass a female student. Take the area inside the campus where the incident took place: the boys used the lack of streetlights to their advantage, but even now many streets inside the campus remain dimly lit or without any lights at all. Even the street where the incident occurred is yet to be lit adequately to avoid any such incidents in future. Ironically, the road where the incident was recorded has a temple under-construction since last few months, but BHU administration could not provide a well-equipped security infrastructure to avoid eve-teasing and sexual harassment cases.
Below are some images which were taken on the evening of October 20:
No lessons learnt from September
It seems that neither University nor the students have taken any lesson from what happened previously on the campus. After the students returned from the holidays following the protests, a boy entered a classroom in the presence of a teacher and slapped a girl multiple times. He also snatched her mobile and broke it. However, the police were quick to respond and the accused boy was arrested immediately.
A few days after this incident, an international student from Fiji was assaulted by his seniors on the pretext of ragging. The student was beaten two times during a period of 24 hours. This time too, police immediately filed an FIR, but arrests in the case are still awaited.
A professor at the University explained why there has been no change in the pattern of incidents in the campus. “It first comes to the students who come from a very patriarchal background. They were supposed to take a lesson from the past, but it seems they have taken none. Seeing this, it can easily be inferred that eve-teasing cases inside the campus would not have dropped,” he said. This is confirmed by Radhika Banerjee, a postgraduate student in science faculty. Banerjee said, “I have not come across any case of that sort – which happened on September 21 – but eve-teasing cases are still happening. Girls are still being pressurized to remain silent, and the boys are still being let off the hook.”
Radhika confirmed that she had faced eve-teasing at least a couple of times in the last twenty days.
BHU has extended the gate-closing timings of girls hostel until 10 pm – which was until 7 pm before – but the university is yet to address the actual issues.
Recently, 400 girl students of the university wrote a letter to vice-chancellor demanding relaxation in the curfew rules. The students wrote that they expect the university to ensure equality within the campus, citing UGC rules which are not discriminatory on a gender basis.
Defying the promise made with the students of the university, the district, as well as the university administration, has not moved an inch towards the formation of Gender Sensitization Committee against sexual harassment (GSCASH). The letter written by the girls testifies the same.
However, newly appointed chief proctor Royana Singh has ensured that she will monitor the hostel rules after talking with the girl students or their representatives.
A side without any voice
Be it a student union or a GSCASH, the students – especially girls – have lacked any sort of representation when it comes to making any rules. In the same course of one month after the incident, the representation of girls is still lacking. Mineshi Mishra, a student told TwoCircles.net, “They decide hostel timings and whether we should get non-veg food and wifi or not. But all such decisions come as they do not consider talking to us while taking the same decision. They make rules for the girls on an arbitrary basis and without any consultancy.”
The university is still running on Malviya values defying any sort of democratic environment, at least that is what several ex-students of the university said. Sunil Yadav, a social activist from Varanasi said, “The university lacks any sort of democratic environment, and I feel that it does not even want to make one.”
However, for BHU administration, the things are fine now, even if there are fewer street lights and security measures. University’s PRO Rajesh Singh said, “We have installed streetlights and CCTV cameras only at those places which we feel sensitive. These are the places where maximum movement of girls and boys have been recorded.”
Singh completely passed the question whether the University is planning to reinforce the security practices to the other areas as well. He said, “We cannot say that university has taken any lesson from the recent incident because the university was always bound to protect its students. We have always been strict when it came to security.”
About enacting of GSCASH at the university level, Chief Proctor Prof Royana Singh told TwoCircles.net, “That has not come on the table yet. We have prioritised other demands of the girls, like street lights and security camera. But the process of GSCASH will start soon.”
With the gagging of student rights’ inside the campus, there is no GSCASH in the campus and University is trying to convince the students over a mere ‘internal complaints committee’ and grievance redressal cell’, where the university has the only authority. But according to Prof Singh, the university is trying to sensitise the students – especially boys – about the sexual harassment and gender discrimination to put a stop on such cases.
Meanwhile, university’s vice-chancellor Prof GC Tripathi covertly came back into the campus on Diwali eve and performed a Puja. He left within three hours from the back door of the University after meeting several officers of the University. Sources inform that Tripathi – who still is VC – will come back before his tenure ends in next twenty days.
Courtesy: Two Circles