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Protests Against Harassment Take Violent Turn at Banaras Hindu University, Police Lathicharge Girls

The students who have been protesting over two days, refused to lift their dharna near the front gate of the Banaras Hindu university, even as PM Narendra Modi was visiting the city and was supposed to pass by the prestigious university.

Pranshu Mishra, Qazi Faraz Ahmad

Updated:September 24, 2017, 1:43 PM IST
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Varanasi: Protests over an alleged molestation case of a first year student at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) turned violent on Saturday night with police resorting to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.

While some miscreants tried to set fire on public property and pelted stones, police and paramilitary forces then allegedly beat up several protesters and marched onto the campus.

Several videos have surfaced showing male police personnel and PAC officers brutally beating up girls and barging into the girls’ hostel. Media personnel covering the event were also caught in the clashes.

Journalists and Lucknow University students would also join the protests on Sunday. The media professionals staged a protest near the CM's residence on Sunday.

The students who have been protesting over two days, refused to lift their dharna near the front gate, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting the city on Saturday and was supposed to pass by the prestigious university.

The girls wanted to draw his attention to the persistent problem at BHU, of lack of security, sexual harassment inside the campus and ‘victim shaming’.

As soon as the news of lathicharge spread on Saturday night, students from other hostels also joined in and the situation went out of control. The protesters took to stone pelting and arsoning on the campus.

The police also fired in the air to disperse the agitators.

The female students alleged that the police thrashed and pulled them by their hair, even as the Varanasi district magistrate, who was present on the spot, denied the claims.

On Friday, as Varanasi prepared to welcome PM Modi, hundreds of girls at BHU sat on an indefinite dharna determined to draw the PM's attention towards the growing number of cases of eve-teasing on campus.

Former UP Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav wrote: “Issue should not be resolved by forces and instead it should be done by dialogue. I condemn the lathi charge on students of BHU. Action should be taken against the culprits (sic).”

Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Yadav also tweeted: “I condemn the attack on protesting girl students and media people at BHU. Strict action should be taken against culprits and police officers responsible for this (sic).”



On September 1, the first-year student complained of harassment by some unknown men. The protesting students have claimed that BHU guards didn’t help the victim and instead questioned her for roaming outside the hostel after 6pm.

Ironically, the girls continued with their protests even as Prime Minister praised Yogi Adityanath’s six months in power, who had started the anti-Romeo squads to protect women from harassment.

The September 1 incident was not the first of its kind and cases of eve-teasing have been even reported earlier as well. An Arts student was allegedly ragged by seniors soon after and on September 20, some threw stones at the new girls’ hostel.

The successive incidents, along with a lack of apathy of the university authorities, led to the protests picking up ahead of the Prime Minister’s Varanasi visit.

The university administration, however, termed the protests as politically motivated. Professor O N Singh, Chief Proctor at BHU, said, “Efforts are being made to restore normalcy on campus and ensure safety of the students”.

BHU, Public Relations Officer Rajesh Singh said, “Anti-social elements along with these girls, who are not university students, gathered outside the vice-chancellor's lodge in the night.

“I have no idea how those sitting on dharna received injuries. Some anti-social elements even tried to break the gates of Mahila Mahavidyalaya.”

BHU protest (2)
Mediapersons protest against the violence at BHU.

Meanwhile, several students’ body organisations, in solidarity with the BHU students, staged a protest at the GPO in Lucknow on Sunday morning.

There were also reports of protests by some others at the official residence of CM Yogi Adityanath on Sunday against Saturday night's lathicharge.

WHAT HAPPENED SO FAR

The protests began on Thursday after a female student of Triveni hostel was allegedly molested by some men on motorbikes.

The student lodged a complaint with the office of the proctor, which is responsible for campus security. As per the sources, the chief proctor refused to act, while some officials allegedly tried to blame the student herself, wondering why she was out late in the evening.

Soon, students of the Triveni hostel sat on a dharna at BHU's Gate on Friday.

They wanted to meet the VC regarding the problem of eve teasing and harassment on BHU campus. However, the VC was not ready to meet all of them. Instead, the vice-chancellor's office wanted 4-5 girls to present their case, while the girls wanted to speak to the VC in front of everyone.

On Saturday evening, the VC, instead of meeting the protesting girls, went to Triveni Hostel to meet the rival group.

As soon as came to the fore, the girls were quick to realise that the VC was trying to break the movement and started raising slogans against the vice-chancellor.


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