A year after making to the headlines, Banaras Hindu University (BHU)- situated in the prime minister’s very own bastion Varanasi- is back on the boil, in what looks like a deliberate attempt to curb the voices of female students. “They can’t tolerate us rising,” says Awantika Tiwari, “They want to scare us through tactics like yesterday, but keeping quiet is no longer an option for us.”
The female students of the university had conducted a celebratory evening of resistance on the night of September 23. Awantika explained that the idea was to create a celebratory atmosphere for the girls to come out and speak, through cultural programmes, that included a street play and an open mic night. The event was organised to mark one year of resistance by the female students, after protests against allegations of sexual harassment had gripped the university campus exactly a year ago.
The evening took a violent turn as the street play organised by the female students was interrupted, post which the women had to shift the location of the open mic. Akash Pandey, a student present at the spot explained, “Multiple men from the ABVP assembled where the open mic was scheduled to take place, and started shouting slogans, which soon turned into abuses hurled at women.”
Another student added, “The ABVP members came in large numbers shouting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’. They attacked the women who were participating in the event. They event tried to assault students with lathis,”
The female students, who responded by making a human chain were beaten up and pushed by the men from ABVP. Students present at the ground, who wish to stay anonymous, told NewsClick, “As the attack by the goons continued, the proctoral staff stood there as mute witnesses.” The students explained that it is only when the students decided to resist the manhandling by the ABVP that the administration cracked down on the female students.
Awantika added, “We were locked up behind the gates, something against which we have been rising.” The students were threatened of dire consequences if they did not peacefully call off the event. Allegations of sexual harassment have also been made against members of the ABVP.
Currently, an FIR has been filed in the case, with over 10 students identified under the banner of the ABVP, however, many are yet to be identified.
Amidst the unrest, female students in the university feel that their safe space is being threatened by men displaying toxic masculinity who want to crack down on women who raise their voices. This is further being legitimised and effectively supported by the administration which maintains a brazen silence over the issue. When contacted by NewsClick, the PRO after taking the questions disconnected the call and refused to comment. Some students, on condition of anonymity, added that when they reached the hostel they were told by the wardens to maintain silence and not raise the issue in the coming few days. They were also threatened with dire consequences and told that ultimately “if they want to survive here, they should follow what is being told to them”
However, these dual attempts to silence their voices, first by the ABVP and then the administration, are in no way disrupting the spirit of the female students, who have now sworn to resist at any cost. Awantika added, “We have to fight back, we will be organising another street play in the coming week.”
Last year in September, the female student of the University had led a campaign against the administration demanding a gender-just space and security for women students, post allegations of sexual harassment on the campus. The event yesterday was a way to commemorate the resistance of the students after the brutal lathi charge and crackdown in 2017.
Read more: BHU Violence: No Corner of the Campus is Safe for Us, Say Female Students