Professor Girish Chandra Tripathi, according to his own admission, became the Vice Chancellor of nationally important Banares Hindu University because of his service to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling dispensation of Bhartiya Janaata Party in India. He is not particularly known for his academic credentials. So, it came as no surprise that he restricted the hours of a 24 hours cyber library started on campus by his predecessor, as he believed that students use the facility to watch pornography. His further decisions shocked even the most conservative of citizens. Girls’ hostel gates were to shut at 6 pm, they were not to use mobile phones after 8 pm, they would not be served non-vegetarian food in mess and worse, would be required to sign a statement declaring that they’ll not participate in any protest against the university. The VC justified these rules saying they would make them ‘cultured.’
In spite of iron clad system for security of girls a Bachelor of Fine Arts student was sexually harassed by motorcycle borne youth on campus on the evening around 6 pm on 21 September. Security guard posted near the site of incident did not come forward to help and Proctor and Dean shamed the student by admonishing her for being out so late. The attitude of authorities provoked a backlash and the next day hundreds if not thousand female students were protesting at the main gate defying the statement all of them had signed for keeping away from such an activity.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was visiting his constituency of Varanasi, home to this University, when the protests broke out. Within hours of his departure on 23 September there was a crackdown by male police on female students, which is illegal, in the dark hours close to midnight. Number of students received bruises, some even had to be admitted to Trauma centre of the University hospital.
University authorities blamed the ‘outsiders, mischief makers, propagandists and anti-national’ elements for instigating the protests. Obviously they were more worried about the outsiders and miscreants who infiltrated the protests than the ones who were responsible for sexual harassment on campus.
Students were further lathi charges on protesting students twice on 24 September during the day on campus. The students have been asked to proceed on an early Dussehra holiday and vacate their hostels. What can be more irresponsible act by the University administration than this? The girl students who are not feeling safe on campus are being evicted from the safe environment of their hostels and without any travel bookings being asked to leave for home.
Tripathi who first prayed to Lord Vishwanath in the famous Vishwanath temple in city and then in a temple by the same name on campus, before taking over as VC three years back now must realize that running a university is more difficult than running a teachers’ union or a RSS shakha. But it doesn’t look like that Lord Vishwanath is going to stand by him for very long. It should dawn upon him that his days are numbered. This anti-academic, regressive, arrogant person has vitiated the atmosphere of BHU and the University needs to be saved from its own VC.
The Socialist Party (India) would also like to protest the removal of vendors from outside BHU main gate in Lanka whenever the Prime Minister visits Varanasi. The vendors who suffered a loss in income over the past few days because of PM’s visit could not set up their carts/shops because of the lathi charge by police on students. The vendors’ association stands with the demands of girl students.
Chintamani Seth, President, Gumti Vyavsayee Kalyan Samiti, Lanka, Varanasi and District President, Socialist Party (India), Varanasi, 9450857038
Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India), Lucknow, Ph: 0522 2347365/4242830