Violence broke out on the campus of Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi on Saturday night after police clashed with protesting students. They were demonstrating against the alleged sexual harassment of a student when the police reportedly resorted to lathicharge, injuring seven students and two journalists.
What has caused even more outrage is a video of two policemen thrashing a woman student. The video shows the policemen charging at the women who are protesting near the hostel gates. All women, barring one, run aside. The woman who was left behind is pushed by the policemen, causing her to fall on the ground. The policemen can be seen beating her with batons.
Students also alleged that the police tried to forcibly enter the women’s hostel without any provocation.
While the situation is under control now, tension continues to prevail at BHU, which will remain shut till October 2.
Social media users as well as politicians have strongly criticised police action on protesting students, many questioning PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ slogan with the women students being assaulted when he was in the city for a two-day visit.
Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, "The government should find solutions with talks rather than with force. Lathi charge on students should be condemned. The culprits must be investigated."
बल से नहीं बातचीत से हल निकाले सरकार।बीएचयू में छात्रों पर लाठीचार्ज निंदनीय।दोषियों पर हो करवाई।— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) September 24, 2017
Referring to the ongoing Navratri festival, some juxtaposed the ‘devi pooja’ during the festival with the police brutality on women students at BHU.
Girls are demanding safe & secure study environment which is their right.Their rights should be ensured while maintaining order as well. 2/2— Arvind Gupta (@buzzindelhi) September 24, 2017
Other student political bodies also showed solidarity with protesting BHU students. Fairoz Khan, national president of NSUI, said it will “fight to the end” for justice.
He had earlier issued a statement when a woman student alleged sexual harassment.
Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) president Kunal Sehrawat called for students across the country to unite against ‘divisive policies’.
ABVP, which is the BJP’s student politics wing, said that it would protest at the HRD ministry in Delhi to demand justice for BHU’s women students.
Meanwhile, BHU issued a statement saying that the students’ protest in light of the PM’s visit to the city was “politically motivated” to malign the university’s image.
On Sunday, the students took out a silent rally in protest of Saturday night's violence. As the students reached Lakshman Das Guest House, some policemen signaled them to stay back. This infuriated the women who started the protest again.
However, when some University workers took out a silent march in support of the administration, police provided security to them. Thousands of students wanted to take out a silent rally but were denied permission. They questioned why they couldn’t be provided with security as well.
With the University being shut, hundreds of students have left for home. The university campus has become a police encampment with a large contingent of Provincial Armed Constabulary deployed there.
The students of BHU's Triveni hostel have been protesting at a university gate since Friday against the university administration's inaction after a student alleged she was molested on the campus on Thursday.
The students have been demanding to meet Vice Chancellor GC Tripathi. The VC's office agreed that he could meet four-five of the women but the protesters wanted everyone to meet him, leading to no dialogue.
On Saturday evening, the VC, instead of visiting the protest site, went to meet another group of women, who have left the agitation, in Triveni hostel. As soon as the word got out, the protesters shifted their agitation to the VC's office and started shouting slogans.
Heavy police security at Banaras Hindu University on Saturday night (PTI photo)
The security personnel tried to stop them but the women got into a heated argument with them till around 1am on Sunday. As the news spread, male students from other hostels came out to support the women students and in some time the agitation turned violent.
The over 1,500 police personnel in the area carried out a baton-charge on the students and even fired some rounds in the air. In response, students threw stones and burnt a police motorcycle.
On getting the information about the clashes, Inspector General of Police Prem Prakash and Varanasi Commissioner Nitin Ramesh Gokarn and some other officials reached the campus with a large police contingent to make an assessment of the situation.
At the incident spot, Chief Proctor ON Singh said efforts to convince the students are on and action would be taken against the guilty men students.
Gokarn said that a report of the incident would be submitted to the state government.
(With IANS inputs)