BHU ‘Molestation’ Row: ABVP Clashes With Students Holding ‘Justice March’
Lucknow: The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is becoming a battleground for student politics over the alleged molestation case of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-BHU) student. As a result, the issue of justice for the woman who was allegedly molested seems to have taken a backseat. While the accused is still absconding, even after over five days of the alleged incident, the police, based on a complaint, has booked protesting students, mainly belonging to Left organisations.
On Sunday, BHU was on the boil as RSS-backed Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists barged into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-BHU) campus, and allegedly attacked the protesting students associated with All India Students' Association (AISA) and Bhagat Singh Chhatra Morcha (BCM), who were about to burn effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Vice-Chancellor Sudhir Kumar Jain over the alleged molestation incident on November 1 night.
According to the AISA and BCM, their members were protesting to ensure justice for the female student who was allegedly molested earlier this week near the university's main gate. They accused ABVP of being "violent and unjust".
ABVP activists, however, denied the charge and alleged that the Left student's organisation was chanting "anti-Hindu and anti-national slogans."
As arguments between the students escalated and turned into a scuffle, the police intervened to disperse them.
"Members of ABVP have been trying to disrupt our democratic protest for the past few days but on Sunday they attacked us while police escorted them," Roshan, a PhD student of BHU, who is part of ongoing protest, told NewsClick, adding that “wherever students in the country protest against injustice, ABVP activists accuse them of being anti Hindu and anti-national as this is the easiest thing to do and get away with it.”
"The call for a ‘justice march’ from the hostel to Lanka Gate was given by a woman student on November 6. The aim of the protest was to seek justice for the girl who was molested on November 1, which unfortunately took a back seat amid the ‘wall politics’ in campus by ABVP activists. We were anticipating that ABVP members would disrupt our march, as they had earlier threatened to beat up students who were mobilising for the march. We informed the proctor and security officers beforehand, but things happened as expected. They (ABVP) not only tried to discredit our protest but also beat up some protesting students," Roshan, who was detained by police, said over the phone.
Another student, Supriya, told Newsclick, “I was harassed by ABVP activists and my clothes got torn right in front of the police. No anti-Hindu and anti-national slogans were raised since we are protesting. The university campus is not safe for girls and instead of providing security, the police and administration are trying to suppress our voice. We are not even allowed to go to the library at night.”
Some female students NewsClick spoke to said that the November 1 incident was not an isolated case. They said they had been forced to hit the road after multiple such cases happened but were never reported or the victim was afraid to speak up.
Both the student groups said they had submitted applications at Lanka police station about their march. Meanwhile, heavy police deployment was made outside the university's campus on Monday as tension gripped the protest site.
Four days after the alleged molestation, the police have failed to trace the unidentified accused.
Meanwhile, ACP Bhelupur, Pravin Kumar Singh, said the investigation was going on in the November 1 night incident, but no arrest had been made in this connection so far.
On Monday, based on a complaint filed by an ABVP activist, the UP Police, registered an FIR against 17 named students mostly belonging to the Left group and 15 unknown students under Sections 147, 505 (2), 323, 354 (B), 504, 506, SC/ST Act.
"We were beaten by ABVP activists and our peaceful protest was affected and a case has also been registered against us. When we approached the proctorial board to register our complaint, they refused to forward it to the police," Roshan added.
On November 2, hundreds of BHU students held a protest over the alleged molestation of a female student on the campus on November 1 (Wednesday night).
According to the complaint accessed by NewsClick, the student said she was walking outside her hostel premises with a friend when three bike-borne men forcibly dragged her to a corner, gagged and molested her.
The accused then allegedly stripped the woman, took her pictures and recorded a video of the act. Scared that she would be caught and harassed again, she knocked at the door of a professor's house. When the professor opened the door, she informed him about her ordeal and requested help. She was taken by the professor inside and was “hidden” for 20 minutes.
Later, the professor alerted the Parliament Security Committee about the incident, after which the student was safely escorted back to her hostel by security personnel.
The accused had let her go after about 15 minutes and took her phone number, as per the complaint.
Based on the woman's complaint, a first information report (FIR) has been registered under Section 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Information Technology Act at the Lanka police station, police said.
Meanwhile, students staged protests demanding that outsiders be banned from entering the campus, hinting that some “outside university elements” were involved in the case.
A day after the incident made national headlines, both the administration of BHU and Indian Institute of Technology, BHU, organised a meeting over student security on campus after the recent case of molestation. Both the institute and the university decided to take measures on surveillance, CCTV coverage, and lighting on the roads. However, even after five days of the incident, no promise has been fulfilled as yet, said some students.
The meeting also resolved not to create a boundary wall between the two educational institutions, as suggested by many, since they believed that it would not solve the problem and was not feasible. The institutes have also formed a joint committee of faculty members which would work towards safety of students.
"We often feel unsafe inside the campus as there is no security arrangement despite several protests. Even though CCTV cameras have not been installed, the non-cooperative attitude of the security guards is even more surprising. A few years ago, when girls took to the streets to protest against the molestation of a student, the police lathi-charged them," Ridima, a student, told NewsClick.
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