In a win for the protesting students at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), the administration has decided to send Professor SK Chaube, who has been accused of sexual harassment, on a “long leave”. The decision of the varsity was announced by a spokesperson on Sunday night (September 15) amid massive protests against his reinstatement in the campus.
Varsity officials have sent Chaube's case back to the executive council to reconsider the revocation of his suspension. However, protests continued on campus despite the Vice-Chancellor's order. The zoology professor had resumed teaching on campus this month, despite the Internal Complaints Committee of the university found him guilty of sexual misconduct in June this year.
Earlier in October 2018, over 36 students had complained against the professor, levelling serious charges of molestation, verbal abuse and passing lewd comments during a study tour to Konark Sun Temple and the Nandankanan zoological park in Odisha. Following this, the ICC had suspended the professor after finding him guilty. However, in June, the BHU executive council, the highest decision-making body of the varsity, revoked the suspension of Chaube censuring him from the varsity.
Also read: BHU Female Students Attacked on Anniversary of Sexual Harassment Protests
Speaking to NewsClick, Avantika Tiwari, a student of the university said, “The previous batch of over 36 students had complained against SK Chaube for sexual misconduct. Despite the ICC report, he was strategically called back to teach in the fresh term beginning in August after those from the previous batch had graduated.”
Students said that the executive council did not take any substantial action but just censured him, which essentially meant that the professor could no longer be eligible for the position of a Vice Chancellor or a professor in another varsity, however, his position as a professor at the university was not taken away.
The campus has witnessed fierce demonstrations by students for two days straight at the Singh Dwar. The students were demanding immediate suspension of the professor, asking the university to take cognisance of the ICC report. The students were brazenly threatened with disciplinary action for participating in the demonstrations. In a video being circulated on social media, the warden of the MMV Women’s College can be seen threatening the students suggesting that the female students will not be allocated hostel rooms in the next term. Another student, Tanvi Sharma said, “It is mentally traumatising to sit in the class which is being taken by a professor who has passed lewd comments about your body shape. How would anyone feel comfortable attending the class of a harasser who has been found guilty? We had no option but to protest.”
In another major victory for the students’ struggles, 11 students, who were barred from taking up academic courses in the varisty last year, following protests against sexual harassment have been allowed to continue this year. Avantika added, “Sexual harassment has been a major issue on campus and this is a major win for the students who were barred last year. Now they just have to submit a document and they will be allowed to take up courses.”
The protests have drawn national attention to the issue of sexual harassment on campus. The National Commission of Women (NCW) has also taken notice of this matter and has issued a notice to the varsity over the same.