Varanasi: Women at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) are enraged. The genesis of their anger is the same as it was in 2017 and the years that came before and after it— the question of the safety of women students on the campus.
Incidents of sexual harassment with women have been a common story. It would not be an exaggeration at all to state that there is hardly a day on which such incidents do not take place on the university campus.
The latest incident in that series took place on August 16 when a section of India was celebrating their ‘Azadi’. However, one look around and we find that half of the population is still not free from these crimes.
On August 16 two horrific incidents of sexual harassment against women at almost the same time in a day have come to light.
One of the incidents happened around 9 o’clock at night.
Two women students of Triveni Hostel Complex were sitting just 50-100 meters away from the Vice Chancellor’s residence when three drunk men who also happened to be students from the campus came on a bike and try to forcefully touch one of the women. When her friend tried to oppose it, the men beat her up too and went on to break her cycle.
The thing to note is that this process lasted for about half an hour. The guards of the proctorial board were present there at a distance of about 20 to 30 meters but they did not try to help the women in any way. After making a lot of hue and cry, the guards came, but they questioned the veracity of the incident but went on to refute that any such thing happened.
When the woman threatened to investigate the footage of the CCTV camera, the guards went silent. In view of the seriousness of the matter, about 40 to 50 students staged a sit-in at the Proctorial Board’s office at the same time demanding strict action against all the accused men.
The protest lasted till about three o’clock that night, finally, due to the pressure of the students, the Proctorial Board assured to register an FIR. Significantly, the woman has identified one of the accused. Due to increasing pressure, the BHU administration has suspended one of the accused from the university.
On the same day around the same time, after 9 o’clock in the night, when a former IIT student was going from Lanka (the road in front of the front gate of the university) to her residence at Hyderabad Gate on a bicycle, a young man riding a bike hit the woman on her chest while saying sorry. The woman lost her balance after the attack by the man and fell down.
After this, the man riding the bike fled from the scene. It can be clearly understood from this manner of harassment that this is not the first time for the accused that he sexually harassed and physically attacked a woman. It is not difficult to understand the nature of fear-laden anxiety such instances instill in the minds of women students.
On one side, three men sexually harass a woman drunk for half an hour on a busy road, while on the other hand a bike rider does the same thing but in both cases the accused easily escape.
This is not the first time in BHU that such a horrific crime against women has happened. In September 2017, a similar attempt was made to harass a woman student where men tried to forcefully touch her private parts.
Back then also when the woman complained to the administration, they held the victim responsible and said why did she go out in the evening? Let me tell you that this incident happened around 6 pm so according to the administration’s rationale, a woman should be imprisoned in her room the second sunsets so that no such incident happens to her.
There is a pattern in all these cases that despite having guards around the spot, they did not try to stop the crime. This makes two things clear. The first is that the guards themselves are of a feudal mindset and do not consider such incidents of a grave criminal nature needing intervention.
Secondly, these guards do not have the ability to stop the fanatics because the people in power and the administration themselves give protection to such people.
When there are connections of these people from top to bottom, why would the guards want to stop them? These abusers operate openly on the campus only under the patronage and instigation of the administration.
Let me tell you that the accused in the August 16 crime are members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is a student organisation associated with the current government and the RSS with a history of violence and abuse against women and marginalised communities.
This is the reason that even after committing such a crime, they do not have any kind of fear. A large number of such elements are present in the campus whose daily work is to harass, stare, taunt, and physically attack women students.
None of this is unknown to the administration yet because of the ruling party, it gives protection to all of them and all actions are only for show.
After the 2017 crime, the accumulated anger of the women came out in the form of a big agitation when the women were sitting around the Singh Dwar i.e. Lanka Gate for more than 2 days. Their demand was that action should be taken against the accused at the earliest and the safety of the women in the campus should be ensured.
This powers to be were so afraid of the women speaking that in order to silence them, the then Vice-Chancellor GC Tripathi had ordered to lathi-charge the protesting students.
It is known that GC Tripathi is one of the favorite people of RSS. GC Tripathi made a statement in the women’ hostel during this movement that women are selling their respect on the road. This was happening for the first time in the history of BHU that such a large number of girl students were expressing their anger.
So there was a crack in the fort of patriarchy in BHU. The shameless power with which the police lathi-charged them to find out the whereabouts of the women brought the issue under national limelight.
For the first time, such a large number of protesting women students were lathi-charged in a barbaric manner, that too on such demands which are a basic right of a woman. Due to increasing pressure, GC Tripathi was sent on long leave, and efforts were made to calm the matter.
The Prime Minister, who gave the slogan ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, was present in Banaras during this movement but he decided to change his course and ran away stealing his face
It was the effect of this historical movement that for a long time the incidence of such harassment was reduced slightly. Along with the administration, there was bound to be some fear among these perverted elements also.
After this, in September 2019, the women again staged a sit-in at the Lanka Gate against Professor SK Choubey, accused of sexual harassment from the women of his class. This time also the women won and the accused professor was sent on leave. Due to the heat of these movements, womenwere able to become vocal on the campus and more such incidents were also happening in less number.
But now after a long time, again many incidents of harassment are happening in the entire campus. Once upon seeing a woman on the campus, three boys taunted – “See a whore is going.”
Once a condom was put in the basket of a woman’s bicycle. The character of the administration itself is anti-women, so it is impossible to expect them to catch these criminals and take action against them.
Now the only option that the university has left women with is to probably take sticks and rods and fight with these lampoons!
Akanksha is associated with Bhagat Singh Chattra Morcha and a student of Banaras Hindu University.