Varsity erupts on prejudice

VC 'victim-shaming' triggers turmoil in BHU, sucks in touring Modi

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 25.09.17
A student cries out in pain after police allegedly beat her up at Banaras Hindu University on Saturday night. (PTI)

Lucknow, Sept. 24: Akansha Gupta, a fine arts student at Banaras Hindu University, got her head tonsured on Thursday night. A dozen among her fellow students, six boys and six girls, are in hospital with head, leg, arm and shoulder injuries.

Akansha shaved her hair after vice-chancellor G.C. Tripathi allegedly asked a victim of campus molestation to "forget the incident" and stop stepping out of her hostel after 6pm because "boys will be boys".

"I did it to protect myself from the gaze of molesters on the campus," Akansha told reporters at a students' dharna at Singh Dwar, the main university gate, that stretched from Friday morning till Saturday night.

One of the girls, who didn't want to be quoted, said the VC told the victim: "Boys will be boys; forget about what happened. Why don't you stop stepping out after 6pm if you dislike such things? You're a girl, don't try to become a boy (by moving around after sunset)."

Tripathi, who describes himself as an RSS swayamsevak and was a leader of the Sangh's student arm when he studied in Allahabad University, did not respond to the student's account through the day.

It was when the protesters marched towards the VC's quarters around 10pm on Saturday that the police team deployed on the campus stirred into action. The cops carried out a baton charge which, along with a later clash after midnight, put 12 students in hospital.

The authorities had earlier swamped the campus with police and paramilitary forces when the students - whose protest coincided with Narendra Modi's two-day visit to his parliamentary seat - threatened to stop the Prime Minister's convoy to complain against the VC.

The threat prompted an eleventh-hour change to the Prime Minister's route on Friday. Originally scheduled to pass by the campus gate, Modi travelled to the Durga Kund temple via Saket Nagar and returned via Mahmoorganj. He left the city at 2pm on Saturday.

Shatrudra Prakash, a Samajwadi Party lawmaker, said: "They (Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath) should have given five minutes to the students and assured the women about safety on the campus."

He alleged that Tripathi was taking advice from the Sangh student arm, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The protesters too have alleged that some ABVP members chanted slogans in support of the VC on Friday.

Tripathi has claimed the molesters were outsiders, and so were those who made "trouble" in the garb of protesters.

"I had met a few students to discuss women's security but some antisocial elements and women who didn't belong to the university created trouble here. The police tried to disperse them. The police did not target students," he told reporters.

He said he didn't know about any injuries caused to students, and said a committee would probe the matter.

The protesters said that Priyanka Kumari, a BA student, was being treated for severe head injuries at Sir Sundarlal Hospital. Mansi Kumari, another undergraduate student, too had head injuries. The cellphone of the hospital's medical superintendent, O.P. Upadhyaya, was switched off.

According to the molestation victim, she was attacked by three motorbike-borne youths at 6pm on Thursday. She couldn't say whether they were students or outsiders - BHU has a huge campus housing many departments and institutes.

Shortly afterwards, she and a few other girl students met Tripathi at his quarters.

After last night's baton charge dispersed the protesters, more students poured out of the boys' hostels and allegedly attacked the police after midnight with firebombs.

They burnt hoardings carrying Modi's image and torched a police booth at the campus gate. Several vehicles were damaged on the campus and outside. The students have alleged the police used tear gas and fired in the air.

No police complaint has been registered against the molesters. The police have lodged cases against 1,000 unidentified students for rioting.