Eleven students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have been debarred from taking part in any future course in the university for joining a protest over the alleged sexual molestation of a female student of the university.
In September 2017, thousands students of BHU, mostly girls, protested when a student was allegedly molested by three men inside the campus. When the girls approached the proctor to file a complaint, she refused to listen to them. In anger, the students protested and demanded a safe and secure campus for girls. The protest which was going on peacefully in front of university main gate turned violent once the police was called in by the then Vice Chancellor, leading to a police lathi-charge that left several students injured.
Also Read: BHU Violence: No Corner of the Campus is Safe for Us, Say Female Students
The newly appointed proctor, Royana Singh, who is the the first female to take charge at the university, told the media that the student protests were "sponsored". “There was funding. A big vehicle had arrived with water, pizza and Pepsi bottles. We saw this on video… When students protest they usually go hungry… but children were actually being properly sponsored and encouraged,” she had told Zee News, as reported by The Indian Express.
Moreover, an FIR was also lodged against the protesting students for sloganeering against the university administration. Singh mentioned in her FIR that the students were chanting "abusive and anti-university" slogans. A standing committee was formed in the college to examine the charges against the students where they found guilty.
Speaking with Newsclick, Singh said, "These 11 students have been not punished for any protest... The committee had subjected them to punishment as it had been proved that they had been repeat offenders in trying to put down the peaceful atmosphere during exams.That's why some of them have been given punishment with a condition that in the subsequent month from the date of issue of their punishment, if they show good behaviour, are good in studies and prove to be good students, we might re-consider their punishment."
When asked if these students were protesting for a student who was sexually molested, Singh said, "Let them define that they they were sexually molested. A protest for something which never happened would be totally wrong. Let the girl who has been sexually assaulted come up.... There are certain groups of students from outside, pass-out students, and these groups of students were sponsored, and I have proof of it."
The Proctor added that "If those 11 students think that they are wrong somewhere, they can appeal and come to us, and I am sure the committee that had punished them will review the decision."
Newsclick approached BHU students to get their version. One of the students, named Shivangi Choubey, who was debarred from taking admission said, "I had cleared M.A Linguistics in BHU but the administration did not allow me to take further admission, so I moved to Delhi University. There is a culture of moral policing in BHU since long and if a girl who is vocal and talks about gender sensitisation, equality etc. she is branded as characterless. There is no women's cell in the campus. If anything happens, where will the girls go?"
She said, before the protests, they had with the university administration and wardens but they said 'Raat me ghumne ki zarurat kya hai, raat me ghumne ki aazadi kyun chahiye (What is the need to walk in night, why do you girls want to roam around at night). When a girl was sexually molested in September last year, we approached the warden, but she declined to listen to our complaint and said "they had only touched you, they did not rape." In anger, we began the protest."
Shivangi further added that, "Royana Singh did not show anyone CCTV footage and defamed our movement. She had given an interview to Zee News without any proof. Interestingly, a standing committee was formed in the college to examine the charges against the students and Singh herself was made the head of this committee."
Accusing the authorities bias towards the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shivangi said, "Frequently, some ABVP people harass girls, pass lewd comments but the Proctor madam never intervenes in this matter, and if she does, she takes ABVP's side. The whole university knows this."
Newsclick also approached other students who have been debarred from taking up any course in future but they refused to comment as they are still students of the university and are fearful of any repercussions.