Thankfully, we're not 'good girls' any longer, say BHU students

The fear of sullying their 'good girl' image was what had stopped them from raising their voice. After the police atrocities, that fear is gone.

Published: 09th October 2017 12:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th October 2017 12:23 AM   |  A+A-

Members of AISA, AIDWA and KYS display placards and shout slogans against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a protest in support of Banaras Hindu University BHU girls' agitation at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

VARANASI: It may sound bizarre. But girls at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), particularly the hostellers, are thankful for the police atrocities they had to endure on the night of September 23. “Ab dar khatm ho gaya (Now, there is no fear),” they say in unison at Pragya Kunj hostel of BHU's Mahila Mahavidyalaya. For long they have been enduring discriminating rules, evil eyes of lumpen elements and misogynist administration. But the fear of sullying their 'good girl' image was what had stopped them from raising their voice. Now, in one stroke that fear is gone.
There is another welcome change after the police lathi-charge on girls protesting against molestation of a fellow student: The inmates of boys' hostel now are much more sensitised about girls' issues. They admit of a strong gender discrimination and harassment of girls on the campus and say that there is total lack of administrative will to address the real problems plaguing the century old prestigious central university.
"University administration is rigid to any change on the pretext of upholding Malviyan values," says Shantanu of 2nd year student of Arts.
Post- prolonged Dussehra vacation, classes have resumed, but the calm for which the holidays were advanced is still elusive. As one huddles with girls to have a sense of their plight, they lay bare their souls.
While different sets of rules for boys and girls --  separate 'curfew' hours, stringent dress code for girls, no Internet, discriminatory mess rules - have enraged the girls, dealing with eve-teasers and molesters lurking on the campus is their biggest worry.
"You will hardly find a girl who has not faced it on the campus. Almost 90% girls - both hostellers and day scholars -- go through such ugly situations many a times during their stint," says Abha Sharma of arts faculty. She is backed by Snowy of Jharkhand, a student of BA, Social Science, 1st year. "It is ingrained here. It is in air. Eve-teasing, molestation bids, eyeing the girls with wrong intensions come naturally to those rowdy elements who do it with impunity," she puts up rather philosophically.
Who are these elements?
"It's a retaliation by a section of lowly educated youths with misogynistic mindset, who refuse to accept the educated, forthcoming girls as they feel having left behind in the race of life. In order to subjugate them, they use the tool of sexual harassment to prove their chauvinistic prowess on them in a bid to ridicule their individuality," says another student, who wishes not to be named.
BHU has a sprawling 1,350-acre open campus, which is also used by commoners. Besides, Rs 15-crore annual budget and just 800 security guards for over 40,000 students is too meagre. After the recent turmoil, the campus administration claims to have deployed 30 women guards to take care of nearly 15,000 girls, unlike earlier when the entire security set up had males only.
What makes the situation worse is the presence of rowdy elements in the boys hostels. They are not students of the BHU, but enjoy the patronage of the higher-ups, say inmates of both boys and girls hostels. "These were the elements who indulged in violence on the day of strike on September 23 drawing brutal action from cops on protestors including girls. Otherwise, we all were protesting in a very peaceful manner. These are those 'outsiders' about whom V-C was claiming that they were identified," says Roshan Pandey of Social Sciences and a functionary of AISA on the campus.
The girls have basic demands. They want proper surveillance of the campus through CCTV cameras, increased security, adequately lit up roads and secluded corners and enough powers to the security to act on complaints of molestation.
The approach roads to girls hostel are poorly lit or completely dark and secluded. "If we go to wardens to report, she shrugs us off by asking us to avoid the situation and concentrate on studies," says Pratima of BSc.
Official gender discrimination, of course, is their perennial bane.
"Girl inmates are instructed to be inside hostels by 7:00 pm. After 10:00 pm, they aren't even allowed to walk to the adjacent one in the same complex. We are forced inside the gate as if we are incarcerated or herded like cattle," says Anshika of Mirzapur, a BA (social sciences) student.
The girls are not allowed to be comfortable even in their mess. "We are not allowed to wear shorts in mess. If any girl is spotted in shorts on the main gate, she is threatened with a week's detention," shares Anoushka of Fine Arts.
Ironically, till a month back, while the boys were provided internet facility in their rooms though LAN, no such provision was there for girls.  "It is that now the campus is Wi-Fi so they can't stop the girls from availing it," Shubham, MA (Political Science) states.
Even after such strict norms, the incidents of sexual harassment of girls have become a routine. To top it all, after the trauma of eve-teasing, they have to undergo agonising lectures on moral values and dissuaded from raising the voice against such exploitation. The common refrain is that even the female teachers indulge in victim blaming rather than supporting her in hour of distress and agony.
A common thread that goes beyond gender is communication gap between students and the BHU administration. "We get to see the V-C once in a year. He never talks to us or listens to us. We are asked to concentrate just on studies instead of raising the issues," says Gaurav, an arts student, who got his hand fractured in the September 23 baton charge.
On September 21, when a BFA second year student of Triveni hostel of the main campus had been molested and security personnel didn't come to help, the only demand of the protesting girls was a meeting with the vice-chancellor. But GC Tripathi refused to oblige. He is on a long leave following the turmoil on the campus after that.

"If we wish out teachers addressing them as sir or ma'am we are frowned upon. Instead they want us to call them 'Guruji' and touch their feet," feel most of the boys who have their own set of agonies including bias in marking, bullying by seniors and anti-social elements on the campus.
A conflict between tradition and modernity?
"Hardly", says students. "It's rigidity."

"If Mahamana Malviya can be progressive enough to established such a big institution for boys and girls during a time when Indians were not even allowed to get education, why can't this administration keep pace with changing times," asks Vishnu, a research scholar.


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