The BHU campus is filled with loud fearless voices of protest and courageous shows of bravery by students for the last few days. The protest is against the sexual harassment that was experienced by a girl from the arts faculty of BHU on 21st September. When she was returning to the hostel at around 6:20 p.m. two boys, on bike, molested her. When the girl resisted the goons, they fled.
All this happened barely at a distance of 100m away from the security guards, but no action was taken by them. The girl pleaded with guards to chase the goons and catch them, but her cries fell on deaf ears. A boy who witnessed this whole episode was ready to help the guards in identifying the goons, but they refused to respond. The girl then rushed to the warden and described everything. The warden instead of helping started passing sarcastic comments at the girl saying, “Now do you want to wait until you get raped or you will get in now? What were you doing outside the hostel so late?” On 22nd September a FIR was lodged but no actions were taken by the police authorities to catch hold of the guilty.
These comments and the whole episode inflamed the anger that already resided in the girls living in hostels at BHU. This was not the first time that something of this sort had happened and also that no actions had been taken then. The girls in these hostels were victims of frequent sexual harassment as well as gender discrimination at the BHU campus, but this time the girls decided to break the silence and let out their anger in the form of a protest.
Hence from 23rd September onwards the girls decided to go on a dharna. Their immediate demand was to catch and punish the guilty. They just wanted the Vice Chancellor (VC) to come in person to the site of the dharna to assure them that action would be taken against the culprits. Girls also raised demands for steps that would ensure their safety on campu, like installation of CCTV cameras, women police personnel on campus, street lights on campus roads, etc. However, the just demands of these girls were met with lathis and abuses by the male police constables. A large number of girls were injured.
Can you believe it that Instead of catching the culprits of sexual harassment, the police has filed FIR against 1000 students under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 148 (rioting with armed weapon), and 307 (attempt to murder) ?
Instead of showing concern for the injured students and taking responsibility for what happened in BHU, the VC of BHU has been passing horrible comments like, “Vyakti ki asmita ka mahatva hota hai, lekin sanstha ki asmita ka bhi mahatv hota hai”, “If we start considering every opinion of every girl on this campus then we would not be able to run this university”, and so on.
Is it not obvious that the VC and other senior university authorities are responsible for what has happened at BHU? They refused to address the long standing and quite simple demands of the students. What is worse is that victims of sexual harassment were repeatedly being shamed by the male Proctors, even as the identified perpetrators were being allowed to go scot-free. Instead of engaging in a dialogue with the agitating students and resolving their basic and genuine grievances, the University authorities chose to physically brutalize the students, late into the night and again on the next day, by unlawfully unleashing a rabid male police force on women students!
The government’s slogan ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ sounds absolutely hypocritical. The ‘brave betis’ of BHU were peacefully demanding ‘Hamko Bachao’. All that they were asking was a safe and secure campus without any arbitrary and discriminative restrictions on them owing to their gender.
Voices of BHU Students
“This protest became so big only because we have been quiet all this while because the administration tends to shame us instead of taking action. But we were outraged when we heard of Thursday’s incident and decided to protest.”
“They want to silence us and tame us. Why are these rules never applied to boys? We are not allowed even the fundamental right to protest.”
“This protest has become a marker. It is the biggest women’s protest in the 100-year history of the BHU. And it was waiting to happen.”
We salute the courageous struggle of the young women students and express our complete solidarity with them.
Spark team demands:
* Withdraw false cases of filed against protesting students.
* Stern action against all those who ordered the brutal lathi-charge against protesting girl students.
* Immediate restoration of students to theirs hostels including of the girl student who was dismissed.
* Termination of the VC of BHU and higher officials of the university administration who refused to take action against frequent complaints of sexual harassment and lack of safety measures for girl students.