The police atrocities at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have invited a lot of flak from across the country. The administration has been criticised and condemned for using force on the unarmed students who had simply raised their voices against the eve-teasing that had taken place in the campus.
“In other news”, the BHU Vice-Chancellor, Girish Chandra Tripathi has come up with the narrative that the unrest in the varsity was caused by “outside elements” who had vested interests to fulfill. In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, he has even gone to the extent of saying that lathi charges have not been ordered during the unrest and that all the allegations made by the students are false.
This statement of his comes despite the fact that there is video footage to prove otherwise.
The VC has expressed grief over the incidents of September 21, which had sparked protests against the lack of safety inside the campus after a first-year student alleged that she was molested by three bike-borne men. The students said that the administration indulged in victim-blaming instead of arranging for proper security in the campus.
After a lot of hue and cry over the incident and social media buzz about the fact that it was wrong on the part of the administration to be inactive while the police showered, the VC has decided to give his opinions on the issue. And his views are contentious.
First, he mentioned the presence of “outsiders” who were responsible for creating the nuisance on the campus. We need to go back and think, are these “outsiders” the same as those who dared to enter the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the fateful day of February 12? Are they the same protesting students who thought it their right to speak favouring a supposedly anti-majority ideology in the world’s largest democracy?
It is interesting to note how the administration invokes the concept of “outsiders” when they feel their back against the wall and have no other argument to back up the fight except this flimsy excuse.
Second, the VC now vehemently defends his stance saying that CCTV cameras have been put up and that security guards have been placed at the areas where men have been caught harassing girls and masturbating. He has even talked about involving girls in strengthening the security in the campus so that it becomes all-round. However, one needs to be reminded of the fact that the administration was not so active before.
There have been umpteen incidents when girls have reported leering and eve-teasing and about lack of proper lighting facilities in the campus but adequate steps have not been taken.
Girls need not go outside at night to the cyber library since WiFi is provided at the hostels; it is the hostel wardens who decide the curfew hours – these might appear as simple counter-arguments. But behold! That is what patriarchy does to us – mansplains the causes behind oppression and abuse.
The administration had not asked the girls to vacate the hostel rooms: the varsity shut down because of the ruckus – so said, VC Tripathi. He stated that “netagiri” (politicising of issues) would not be appreciated. But then, one would think that “personal is political” is an established fact.
These girls had their back against the wall and had raised their voices against their grievances. But the administration had chosen to serve a crushing blow to these bravehearts. It is utterly despicable how the VC of a reputed educational institution of the country looks down on the idea of student politics and the power it holds.
A common cause had united these students, who had no other agenda in mind except the ones they explained in clear terms. Yes, they were “political”, but their fight was for the right kind of politics – for their well-deserved rights.
In the end, the only thing that needs to be driven home is that no one has the right to infantilise adults who can make informed decisions about themselves on their own. Educational institutions and also the families of the young girls need to realise that it is their lives, and locking them up inside a cage is not a solution. Sending these girls home because the varsity feels that they would be unable to “protect” them from the chaos is unacceptable. They need to accept that it is these girls who have created the chaos, a well-timed and needed chaos – a chaos they shall create again if so desired by the times.