On 23rd September 2018, as the news of violence in Banaras Hindu University flashes on social medias again, it did not appear much different than that of 23rd September, 2017.
A year earlier, Banaras Hindu University witnessed one of it’s most historical movements when the female students of the University swarmed on streets and demanded their rights and security.
It was 21st September 2017 when a female student of the Banaras Hindu University was heinously assaulted inside the campus. She cried for help but all she found in return was Moral policing, that the university has successfully adopted against any logic. Her hostel warden triggered the anger of the students by saying that the men only touched her and she should not go out of her hostel after dark. And were we women enough if we were not enraged by the treatment a victim of sexual assault was facing? The protest was decided.
The early morning of 22nd September saw hundreds of students sitting and sloganeering at the main gate. It was a mass never expected out of BHU. We sat there all day, preparing our demands, waiting for the administration to come to hear us. There was no sign of any response. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi was in town, we expected him to address the massive struggle of the students against the irresponsible and patriarchal BHU administration, but to our disappointment, he took another route to travel out of Varanasi.
We fought and we sat determined for two days with our demands to sensitise the campus on gender issues, to provide equal opportunities to all the students irrespective of their gender, to provide freedom and security to the female students, to start GSCASH in the University for any kind of sexual harassment. In return, the BHU administration decided to use violence against us, to disrupt our Movement. On 23rd September 2017, around midnight, the campus sounded of Police sirens and shrieking students. The massive lathi charge on the female students by the male police, not just once but repeatedly, caused fatal injuries and memories that would haunt for a lifetime. Since then, 23rd September has been written as the ‘Black Day’ in the name of Banaras Hindu University.
This year, on 23rd September, the students decided to remember the day that had brought courage inside them, to speak and to fight for their rights. They organised Street plays and Open mic sessions to gather the students in the memorial of a massive movement that they were a part of.
But the horror of 23rd September found it’s way back in the form of a right-wing student organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The ABVP intervened during the programs sloganeering ” BHU me rehna hai toh Vande Mataram kehna hai”, ” Vaampanthiyon wapas jaao“, “Joote maaro saalo ko” and a lot more. When enough sloganeering and hooliganism did not shake the spirit of the students, the ABVP members turned to violence. They hit female students, assaulted them physically and verbally, broke their loudspeakers and ruined their memorial celebration. The proctorial board of the University stood as spectators and enjoyed the show until the situation got out of hands. The Chief Proctor Royana Singh, who has indulged in giving controversial statements many times earlier, said that there was no violence on the part of students and the female students were instigating the ABVP. The University did not take any action against the violent ABVP students.
Does it not convey the propaganda the University administration is up to? Why are violent students from the right-wing organization being protected by the University?
Here, the University recently suspended 56 students and completely debarred 12 students from the campus, in different cases and events. The 12 students that are currently debarred from the University, including me, were a part of the Movement and always have been vocal about issues inside the campus.
The main aim of the administration is to crush and stop any other ideology to flourish inside BHU apart from right-wing propaganda. The students who speak against the sexist and unjust rules of the university, face the blows of the administration in forms of police cases, suspensions, and harassment. The demand of a female Chief Proctor turned out to be the biggest mistake, as she is the flag bearer of patriarchy inside the university. In April 2018, in her interview with Zee News, she demeaned the historic Movement of the students by calling it ‘funded’. She accused the students of being funded protesters and even called them outsiders. When opposed and demanded an apology, she filed fake police cases against us with serious charges like ‘attempt to murder’. The Vice-Chancellor, Rakesh Bhatnagar, who was appointed after months of wait, allegedly formed a Standing Committee for disciplinary enquiry that was completely biased and untrustworthy because the Chief Proctor herself was a member of the committee.
Without the police investigation being completed, the University debarred the 12 students straightaway, ruining all chances of further admission in the Banaras Hindu University. The administration reaped happiness out of destroying the career of their own students, only because they speak, they dissent.
The movement which the administration is trying to crush has given the students the courage to stand against discrimination, injustice and inequality. it is because of the female students that came out on the streets, that the curfew timing of the girls’ hostels have been raised to 10 pm. Although the demands have not even been fulfilled to the half, the students are still fighting for it and that is what the administration is afraid of.
The Banaras Hindu University has now officially declared that it is the centre of RSS and BJP by allowing political rally of the party inside the campus. The administration is trying it’s fullest to establish right-wing ideologies to flourish inside the campus, thus entertaining ABVP members and not taking any action against them and debarring students of different ideologies who speak for equal rights.
After one year of a Movement that caught national attention, what has changed? The female students are still being beaten up and assaulted, and this time by the very own students of BHU. The ground reality remains the same. Women are still not safe inside the campus of the Banaras Hindu University. They are constantly under surveillance in the name of CCTV cameras. After what the female students encountered this 23rd September, the fear of being unsafe still remains. And who knows until when!
(Shivangi Choubey is BHU alumnus and she has been fighting for students rights in Banaras Hindu University)