Varanasi— A girl student at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Uttar Pradesh was allegedly molested and stripped by three motorcycle-borne men. The incident has sparked protests from hundreds of students demanding justice and increased safety measures on campus. The female IIT student was assaulted when she had gone out of her hostel with a male friend on Thursday. The students were ambushed by three individuals on a bike. The men separated them, forcibly disrobed and assaulted the girl, threatening her when she sought help. The victim sought refuge at a nearby professor's residence, deeply traumatized by the experience. This incident prompted a large protest on November 2, with the police registering a case.
The IIT BHU Students’ Parliament demanded increased security measures, including the construction of a boundary wall to separate IIT from the rest of the campus. The administration, in response to the students' demands, agreed to construct this boundary wall to enhance campus safety.
The police officials at Lanka Police station told The Mooknayak “A case has been registered under Section 354 B (assaulting or using criminal force to any woman or abetting such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked) of the IPC and Section 66 (E) (intentionally or knowingly capturing or publishing or transmitting the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent) of the IT Act. Efforts are underway to nab the accused with the help of CCTV footages of the surrounding area.
IIT BHU Students’ Parliament, the representative body of IIT BHU, voiced their concerns regarding the recent distressing incident that rocked their institution. They emphasized that similar incidents had occurred before, and despite repeated appeals for improved security measures, the administration had failed to take adequate action.
The students staged a protest outside the Director’s Office, demanding night time barricading, a boundary wall to separate IIT from the rest of the campus, and strict restrictions on outsider entry via a single point entry/exit. Additionally, they urged for the installation of a centralized and expanded CCTV infrastructure, among other demands.
Responding to the students' requests, the administration agreed to construct a boundary wall within the IIT premises to bolster student safety. An email, signed by the IIT BHU registrar and circulated among the students on November 2nd, outlined the plan. It detailed the formation of a Joint Committee comprising CPWD officials and IIT BHU Professors entrusted with the task of surveying the campus for the boundary wall construction. The email also assured the installation of CCTV cameras at sensitive locations, including the girls' hostels, to further enhance security.
The decision by the administration to erect a boundary wall has sparked discontent among a faction of students. They argue that this move contradicts the vision of Madan Mohan Malviya, the esteemed founder of the university. Jitendra Kumar Yadav, a MA student at BHU, voiced his concerns to The Mooknayak, stating, “The establishment of IIT in BHU in 1919 fostered good coordination and camaraderie among students of IIT and the broader BHU community. The ease of access benefited all students. However, the construction of the wall might impede other faculties' students from accessing IIT, leading to difficulties in inter-faculty movement, including access to the Arts faculty, other departments, and the hospital. This wall could potentially foster hostility among students. It might transcend being merely a physical barrier and fragment the vision of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya.”
In 2017, a female student was allegedly molested by three men within the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus. The incident was reported by The Wire, revealing that the victim's claims were dismissed by the authorities, amplifying the distress of the students.
In response, female students led a massive protest against the administration. The demonstration coincided with the Prime Minister's visit. The authorities' reaction to the protest was forceful, with lathis used against the protestors, the majority of whom were girls. Subsequently, G.C. Tripathi, the vice-chancellor, took an indefinite leave following the incident. The then Proctor, Royana Singh, labelled the protest as "sponsored."
Continuing the troubling trend, in 2018, 11 students who had spearheaded protests against the sexual molestation incident were banned from future courses at the University. The ban was justified on grounds of alleged involvement in vandalism and assault. The authorities cited that the protest at the main gate disrupted the flow of traffic and movement of patients within BHU.
Assistant Professor Priyanka Sonkar at BHU expressed condemnation of the incident, highlighting the government's responsibility. She emphasized that such events not only deter girls from pursuing education but also hinder gender equality, likening the situation to barbarity prevalent despite the absence of historical rules like the Mughals.