Memorandum: Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Women Student’s Agitation Issue

Jantar Mantar, Delhi

28.09.2017

Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam,

The Honourable Chairperson

National Commission for Women, Delhi

 

Ms. Rekha Sharma,

Member, National Commission for Women, Delhi

 

Sub: Continued Misdemeanors and Anti-women Attitude of the Vice Chancellor of Benaras Hindu University (BHU)

Dear Madam,

We are shocked that although a week has passed the NCW has not yet responded to the serious case of sexual assault that happened on the evening of 21st of September, 2017 in the BHU campus and the brutal police attack that followed including the filing of false cases on the peacefully protesting women students. Being the premier and highest body for women in the country, we are surprised that there has been no intervention from the body, when the women students are running pillar to post for justice.

As you may note, that the administration at all levels did not take any action on the complaint filed by the survivor of sexual assault, which resulted in women students sitting in a protest to get an FIR lodged and also ensure that their outstanding demands of a sexual assault free and safe campus be heard and complied with.

Despite the non-violent protest outside the main gate of the BHU, which consisted of some of them shaving off their head and some sitting on hunger strike (without obstructing the passage of the University), with the plea that they be heard by the VC and their concerns be addressed immediately, in less than 48 hours the VC instead of talking to the students in a systematic fashion, used brutal ways to crush the protest.

As the several videos which are in the public domain show, that without any provocation the male policemen entered the campus, targeted the girl students and brutally beat them up. As if to teach the girls a lesson, they entered the girl’s hostels and continued to play havoc and injuring the students with their lathis. They did not even spare the women teachers, the account of Dr. Pratima Gond, Assistant Professor of Sociology, MMV, BHU, clearly states, the merciless way in which the police attacked women.

Following which, in the early hours of the 24th of September, the students were pressurized by their respective hostel wardens to vacate the hostels. Those students who resisted, their parents were called up. Further those who stated their inability to leave the hostels, were locked inside. All these actions of the administration were done in the presence of heavy police force, converting the educational campus of BHU into a cantonment. Further to teach the protesting students a lesson FIRs were quickly lodged against 1200 students under IPC Section 148 ( rioting with armed weapons), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of duties), 332 (voluntary causing hurt), 436 (destruction of immovable property), all of which are non-bailable and non cognizable offence.

The Vice Chancellor Mr. G.C. Tripathi, complicity with the above is shown by the fact that,

The incident of sexual assault suffered by the visual arts student was not addressed by him or his administration.

No Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women Act 2013 or GSCASH took cognizance of this incident. It seems the ICC has been defunct under this VC

An FIR was lodged almost 24 hours later, however, the University administration did not instruct the police to immediately act upon the evidence, which could have been obtained from the CCTV cameras near the place of the incident.

  • To date nobody has been nabbed nor has the student been provided with trauma counseling which is an imperative under the law.

  • It is clear that the police could not have entered the campus without the permission of the VC and the hostel wardens could not have pressurized the students to vacate the hostels without due instructions from the VC, however much the VC may indulge in double speak now.

  • The VC went on record to mention that this was not a case of sexual molestation but eve-teasing, which not only reduces the gravity of the crime, but also shows that the VC has not read the IPC amendments of 2013 and other special laws related to sexual violence.

  • The protest following the incident of sexual assault of the 21st September, was the culmination of a series of unheard grievances and complaints of the students for the last three years.

  • The students had raised issues of discrimination related to closure timing of 6 pm for girls in some hostels and 8 pm for some other girls hostels, however, 10 pm is closure time for all the boys hostels on the campus.

  • Discrimination in provisioning of food offered in the hostels, particular non-vegetarian food.

The girl students were told not to raise the issue of sexual violence on the campus, as it would tarnish the image of Shiv Nagari/Dharm Nagari of Varanasi.

Forcing girls students to sign affidavits regarding non-participation in any kind of agitation or protest against the University administration.

Even before, the incident of 21st of September has settled down, it is public now that the BHU VC has pushed for the appointment of one Dr. O.P. Upadhyay who was convicted of sexual harassment by a Magisterial Court in Fiji as the Medical Superintendent of the campus based Sir Sunderlal Hospital.

To top it all, according to the Indian Express report of today, 27th September, 2017, Dr. Upadhyay has been quoted, stating that ‘ The University has taken a legal opinion in my matter, and it was decided that the decision of a Court abroad does not hold good in our country. Hence I was interviewed and selected by the Selection Committee. I was on study leave in Fiji and it was a case of extortion and because I resisted it I was falsely accused’. The VC instead of constituting a enquiry committee into this matter, keeping Dr. Upadhyay away from all public contact, particularly of women, appointed him as several months ago as the acting Medical Superintendent and is now regularizing his appointment.

As shown by the above, not only has the VC been brazenly and blatantly violating and turning a blind eye to all laws relating to security and the protection of women’s autonomy, but also violating all UGC norms which are clear that no discrimination be allowed between the sexes in any University affiliated to it.

The Divisional Commissioner of Varanasi in his report given to the Government of UP on the incidents taking place in BHU has categorically stated that the administration delayed in its response to the incident of sexual assault and mishandled the protest, clearly indicting the VC as the head of the BHU administration. In the light of all the above mentioned facts, we demand the,

  • Arrest of all the criminals, responsible for the sexual assault of the girl student on 21st of September, 2017.

  • Dismissal of the Dean of Students, Proctor and the Warden of all the hostels who allowed the police force to enter and abuse the girls and later forcibly vacated the hostels.

  • Immediate removal of the VC, G.C. Tripathi and ensure that he is not appointed anywhere else in a responsible position in any other institution

  • Withdrawal and closure of all FIRs against the students and stopping all persecution of students in the future.

  • Prevention of the appointment of Dr. Upadhyay as the regular Medical Superintendent of the campus hospital.

  • Dismissal of the SP/DIG responsible for the police attack on students at the earliest.

Madam,

The need of the hour is to immediately constitute and send an independent committee of eminent people, chaired by an eminent woman to BHU in order to enquire into the matters of sexual violence, discrimination and the police assault of the 24th and subsequent persecution of students and submit a report. The independent committee from the Commission should hear the students, who have been denied a hearing for the last three years.

It is imperative that we all ensure that the campus of BHU is free from all forms of discrimination and sexual violence of all sections of women on the campus including women students, teachers and staff.

In the hope, that you will respond and act immediately to our memorandum and send a committee to our campus at the earliest.

Yours in waiting,

On behalf of students of BHU and activists: Mineshi Mishra, Vijay Lakshmi, Ompal Meena, Shantanu Singh Gaur, Atul Yadav, Avinash, Deepak, Akash, Diwaker, Shivangi, Abhisheel, Aruna Roy, Abha Bhaiya, Dr. Nivedita Menon, Vrinda Grover, Aheli Chowdhary, Annie Raja, Kavita Srivastava, Harsh Mander, Swami Agnivesh, Prof. Satish Deshpande, Prof. Apoorvanand, Dr. Mary E John, Arundhati Dhuru, Maya Krishna Rao, Rakhi Sehgal, Suroor, Aparajita Raja,

  • Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL Rajasthan

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