For the female students of BHU, public molestation has become an everyday norm. And they have had enough of it.
“Male students fearlessly touch us, pass lewd remarks and go scot-free.”
Newsclick Image by Nitesh Kumar
“It has become so common on the campus that nobody pays heed to it.”
“The warden mockingly tells us, ‘Arre kaunsa pahar toot padha hai ...sirf private parts hi to chuye hain...ladke hain to chedkhani karenge hi (Why to make a mountain out of the molehill? They have only touched your private parts ... They are boys, its okay if they do a bit of eve-teasing).”
For the female students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), this has become the new normal. And it gets worse from here. From grabbing women by their body parts to putting hands in their clothes, from masturbating outside the windows of the girl’s hostel to passing lewd comments on campus, the female students aren’t spared any kind of physical and mental harassment from the male students. Neither the teachers nor the police is interested in the student’s complaints. And this is exactly what happened in case of the sexual harassment of a Triveni Girls Hostel resident, which turned into a movement on Friday and Saturday.
At around 6 pm on Thursday, while the student was on her way to her hostel, a couple of motorcycle-borne men came and allegedly tried to put their hands inside her clothes. When she raised the alarm, the guards ignored her complaints. Determined, she approached the Proctor’s office which was barely 20 metres away from the place of the incident. But instead of looking for her assailants, the proctor questioned the victim on why she was out so late.
“Though the issue molestation of a girl returning to the hostel at 7 p.m. became a big issue this time, this is not the first incident,” said a girl student of Naveen Hostel.
“Few perverts masturbate outside the windows of my hostel without any fear. When we complain to the proctor, he asks us to catch the boys. We are advised to keep the window closed. We have given written complaints on several occasions but all in vain.” She further said that “No corner of the campus is safe for girls studying here. Molestation has become so common that nobody pays heed to that”.
Fed up with this constant harassment and callous approach of the BHU administration, the girls of the university took to the street and started an agitation seeking a safe campus. They demanded that the Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi should meet them with an assurance to make the campus safe and secure. They also demanded that street lights and CCTV cameras should be installed in the campus so that some action can be taken against the culprits.
But Tripathi, instead of meeting the students, called the police to deal with them. The “peaceful” protest turned violent when the police resorted to lathi-charge, tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the agitated girls on Saturday night. Around a dozen of girls reportedly suffered injuries. The administration also registered a FIR against 1,000 BHU students in Lanka police station for arson on Monday. The entire university campus has been turned into police cantonment with local police and jawans of Provincial Armed Constabulary stationed in and outside the campus in large numbers. The girl residents of the university have been asked to vacate their hostels, failing which they would be “forcibly removed”.
Meanwhile, Station Officer (SO) of Lanka police station Rajiv Singh, Circle Officer (CO) Belapur Nivesh Katiyar and three Additional City Magistrate Manoj Kumar Singh, Sushil Kumar, Gaund and Jagdamma Prasad Singh have been removed prima facie for executing the charge.
Outraged with the police crackdown on the night of September 23, at least four girls – while talking to NewsClick – described the horror they have to face in and outside the campus.
“When we approach the chief proctor with complaints of sexual harassment in the campus, we are asked if we jot down the number of the bike-borne men who tried to molest us,” said one of them.
“Once few men surrounded a girl when she had gone out of the hostel for a piece of work. She somehow managed to escape and reached the hostel guard and she was asked to go to the hostel. But the guard did not tell anything to the goons. They smashed the guard’s chair. Outsiders enter girls’ hostel premises without any hindrance. We do not feel safe here at all,” she recounted.
A second-year student of Fine Arts department alleged that “The guards here never miss the opportunity to object when we are accompanied by our relatives or male friends”.
Talking about the incident when an undergraduate student of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya, affiliated to the BHU, was allegedly asked to leave a girls’ hostel as she showed “tendencies of homosexuality and indiscipline”, a female resident of the Triveni Hostel said the allegation against the ousted girl was “baseless”. “Even it was true, having different sexual orientation was indiscipline for the university administration but harassment of girl students here are normal for them. It is sheer hypocrisy,” she added.
Recalling the ordeal she suffered one day, the girl student alleged, “One day I was going somewhere. When I was sitting on a rickshaw, two bike-borne male students told me, ‘Paanch hazar logi (Will you have sex with us for Rs 5,000)’. I felt helpless and cried throughout the night.”