LUCKNOW/VARANASI: While trouble on the Banaras Hindu University seemed to have been quelled, for now, the embers are still glowing. The administration advanced the Dasara holidays – they were to begin from September 28 but began on Monday – in the hope of calm returning in the interregnum but a good number of students remain in the hostels while security personnel are watching the comings and goings.
Videos and accounts of the trouble over the past four days are circulating on social media. One cellphone video shows policemen charging at women students protesting at the gate of a hostel. As the students scurry back inside, one student is left behind and a policeman pushes her and she falls to the ground. Two other policemen thrash her with their batons.
To tap the outrage generated by the incidents at BHU, a number of activists are said to be planning visits to the high-profile city -- if not the campus itself – to say their bit about the events in the central university.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad arrived in Varanasi but was detained by the police while highly-placed sources said Kanhaiya Kumar, former president of the JNU students union, was likely to join the BHU protest in the coming days.
The police action against the students has been criticised by opposition parties, including the Congress and Samajwadi Party. About 200 supporters of the latter party were detained when they picketed at the main gate of the campus on Monday, raising slogans against the Prime Minister.
The university’s defence throughout the events of the weekend was that the trouble was fomented by ‘outsiders’ to grab the headlines while the Prime Minister was in town. In remarks to the media, UP governor Ram Naik, who is also the chancellor of BHU, alluded to this possibility. While condemning the brutal baton charge on women students, he said the probe by the state administration will not only looking into the women students’ complaint but also ‘other aspects’ such as the factors that fuelled the protests.
The trouble at BHU has exposed yawning gaps in the security arrangements for women boarders. The Triveni hostel complex lies deep inside the campus, making women students vulnerable to harassment. The university has a budget of Rs 15 crore for security but most of the security personnel are usually posted near the residences of professors and senior officers.
Although there has been a women-only college on the BHU campus for several decades, it was only this year that the administration made BHU completely coed. Starting this academic year, women students began to be admitted to all faculties which until then were men-only.