Scores of protesting students were injured on Saturday night in Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, when police forces unleashed a lathicharge on them. Students, both male and female, who have been staging a protest for their long-standing demands for making the college campus safe for women, were thrashed and beaten up by the police when they refused to budge from the protest site at VC house.
It has been reported that some male police officers manhandled a few female student protestors standing at the entrance of the Mahila Mahavidyala hostel. Some police personnel also entered into women’s hostels without any women personnel accompanying them. The students had been carrying out demonstrations and demanding that the Vice-Chancellor of BHU, Girish Chandra Tripathi, come and listen to their demands of increasing patrols around the campus, lighting up the dark spots and installing CCTVs.
The Triggering incident:
As per some female students, the BHU campus has seen numerous incidents of eve-teasing and slut-shaming in the past. But the depravity of the situation worsened when on Thursday evening, a women student returning to her hostel was molested by two men on a motorbike before speeding away. When the woman approached the security guards who were standing a few metres away, they refused to take an action and instead responded to her with misogynist remarks. They further tried to shame her by insisting that she should have been careful about moving alone in the dark. Even her hostel warden tried to blame her for the mishap.
Enraged by this ridiculous incident of harassment and victim-shaming, a large number of students gathered near the Lanka Gate of the campus on Friday morning and shouted slogans to voice their demands. But a large contingent of police cordoned off the protest area in light of the Prime Minister’s impending visit to Varanasi later in the day. When the PM did arrive, his convoy was diverted away from the Lanka Gate and rerouted, even as the magnitude of the protest continued to swell and carried into Saturday.
Demand to Meet the VC:
As per The Hindu, the Vice-Chancellor has stated that many of the protestors were outsiders and were politically motivated, citing the PM’s visit to the city. He also said that he sent a delegation of teachers to communicate with the students and listen to their demands.
But the students firmly insist that the VC himself should come and meet them. The Logical Indian contacted some of the students, who told us that in earlier events of eve-teasing and victim-harassment, the VC similarly sent out his delegation to listen to their demands but nothing happened on ground. Also this time, when they were told that the VC will be coming to meet them, some of the protesting students started to go back to their hostels, after which the hostels were locked up and students were beaten.
An Ugly Turn:
Taking their demonstration to the VC’s house on Saturday, the students were met with deplorable action from the police who attacked them with lathis and used smoke and tear grenades to disperse the crowd. They also vandalized the bikes parked outside hostel gates. A few students reported that the police threw stones on the protestors in order to incite them and delegitimize their agitation.
It is indeed disheartening to see another university being rocked by violence. When the students are protesting for something as basic as women safety, there is no reason why the administration shouldn’t pay heed to their demands. Instead, its use of police brutality on unarmed protestors is highly condemnable and simply inhuman. The Logical Indian hopes that the administration sincerely addresses the legitimate concerns of the students at the earliest and do not use force on them, so that they can get back to focus on their education and career.