Banaras Hindu University Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi is facing storm after the police lathicharged girls protesting an incident of molestation of a female resident of the varsity’s Triveni Hostel on late September 21 night.
The incident, coincidentally, took place at the time the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Varanasi for a visit to his Lok Sabha constituency.
Though an FIR has been lodged, the accused have not been identified so far. NewsClick spoke to the VC at length. Here’re the excerpts...
NewsClick: What were the circumstances that forced you to call the police and order them to lathicharge female students protesting “peacefully” for their rights and “discriminatory” rules and regulation of the university?
BHU VC: A judicial enquiry (headed by retired Allahabad High Court judge BS Dixit) has already been ordered to probe the incident. The protests escalated because of involvement of outsiders who want to pollute the atmosphere here.
It was not a peaceful protest. The protesters resorted to violence first. Petrol bombs were hurled in the campus. There was no use of force against the students. It was done against the miscreants who want to create unrest here in the campus. And if there has been any use of force against the students, it is not in my knowledge.
Second, there is no discrimination on the basis of gender. Both boys and girls have different timings to return to the hostel. While boys can stay out till 10 pm, girls are required to be back by 8 pm. It is because girls require more security than boys.
Why do the girls want to compete with boys for such equality? I cannot make rules according to every girl student. No one, be it a boy or a girl, is jailed here. They can go outside after taking permission.
Should we allow girl residents to roam outside the hostel with whoever they want at 10.30 p.m.? Would it be in their favour? The university is a century old and the rules have not been framed yesterday. There are some restrictions that they have to follow.
NewsClick: What led the students to stage protest? Why did you not pay heed to the alleged incident of molestation of a girls’ hostel resident on the night of September 21? Why are the university authorities, as alleged by the students, least concerned about the complaints regarding wide spread eve-teasing, molestation and other forms of sexual harassment in the campus?
BHU VC: The incident (of alleged sexual harassment) was unfortunate. We spoke to the victim and she was satisfied with the measures we are taking. The university is committed to ensure women’s safety on the campus.
The university is committed to safety and security of the students studying here. We will increase the number of street lights. Each and every corner of the university will be manned by security guards. We will do whatever we can.
But one should desist from throwing himself or herself into danger. You first put yourself into danger and then start complaining.
Majority of the girls who were protesting against the molestation were the ones who do not follow their hostels’ entry and exit timings. They want to stay out after 8 pm. I have never got any complaint of sexual harassment from those who follow hostel rules and do not step out after 8 pm.
NewsClick: Do you mean to say if a girl goes out of hostel after 8 pm, it means she is inviting trouble for herself?
BHU VC: The university campus is open for all. There may be miscreants in the campus when it gets dark. In this case, the threat perception is high in the campus for female residents. The rules have been framed to avoid such threat.
Therefore, it is always wise to follow the rules so that you cannot land in any kind of trouble.
NewsClick: How can a university stop someone from going somewhere? What if they have work that can go beyond 8 pm and who are you to decide who she is going out with? Making the campus safe for your students is your responsibility.
BHU VC: Female residents of the hostel can definitely go out but they must inform the warden where and with whom she’s going. Is it wrong to ask for such details?
Secondly, our hostels have all the facilities. There is a canteen and access to internet. What's the need to go outside at night when the place you are living in is fully equipped?
The campus is completely safe. It is a propaganda that the BHU is unsafe for women.
NewsClick: Is it compulsory to give private details before venturing out post 8 pm?
BHU VC: Yes, there are rules! There are 8,000 girl residents as against 25,000 boys living in 90 hostels in the BHU and it is not allowed for just about anybody to visit each other in their rooms. No one has the freedom to do something like that in the BHU.
NewsClick: Why are the girls asked to dress “modestly”? Is there any dress code in the university?
BHU VC: No, we don’t have any dress code. But we advise female students to dress properly just to ensure they do not face any unavoidable circumstances. Do not just listen to the students, think about their guardians too. Think about their condition when a problem like this happens, which is why the university has always had this rule, wherein a female student has to inform the warden about where and with whom she is going after 8 p.m.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.