Varanasi: The premiere institute, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), is once again making headlines for the wrong reasons: a clash between two major hostels, ‘removal’ of an RSS flag and some students’ opposition to appointment of a Muslim professor.
A clash between the hostel occupants of Birla hostel and Lal Bahadur Shashtri hostel ensued on November 14 over a ‘trivial’ issue, which resulted in stone pelting from both sides, according to Varanasi police.
Police said that the reason behind the clash was yet to be ascertained and the police were called to the varsity when the proctorial board failed to calm the students. The police also found and seized several canes (batons), one country-made pistol and even petrol bombs from both the hostels.
This is not the first time a clash has occurred between the occupants of two hostels; it has been a regular affair since late 1990s—apparently, in a bid to establish dominance. The last such major clash was reported in 2017 and the role of outsiders was also questioned then.
According to SP (City) Dinesh Singh, the police have detained about 15-16 people this time for their alleged involvement in the clashes, while a heavy bandobast of security forces including the central paramilitary forces has been made in the varsity in order to avoid further untoward incidents. Lal Bahadur Shastri hostel has also been vacated.
Varsha Singh, a student of fine arts, who claimed to have witnessed the stone pelting, said, “It was like a scene from a war movie with both sides pelting stones and petrol bombs being thrown in between. The university administration was a mute spectator in it and the situation was brought under control only when the police came.”
“The quality of atmosphere in the BHU has become worse in recent years and the varsity has been failing to address the issues of the students,” she said, adding that she has been called home by her parents as the campus remains tense.
Meanwhile, the BHU administration has initiated a probe in the matter. When NewsClick tried reaching the administration, officials from the varsity proctorial board refused to comment on the issue.
The Removal of RSS flag in South Campus
Kiran Damle, the deputy chief proctor of the South Campus, BHU, in Mirzapur officially resigned from her post after she found herself in the soup with a police case registered against her for removing an RSS flag from the playground.
According to BHU officials, her resignation has been sent to the vice-chancellor, and a decision to accept or reject is yet to be taken.
An FIR was registered against Damle for insulting religious belief by the Mirzapur police under sections 153A, 295A, 504 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It may be pointed that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre.
According to Damle, she had asked the RSS members who were holding a shakha in the middle of the playground to remove the flag. But when they did not pay any heed, she herself removed the flag and told the RSS members that the flag cannot be hoisted at “such a sensitive time”.
Soon after this action, protests against Damle were staged in Mirzapur.
BJP’s Mirzapur division issued a statement on this issue that said, “The premiere institution was started by Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya and Damle ji has insulted him by bringing down the flag of RSS and not allowing to hold the Shakha. The Shakha in this ground is being held from years.”
Meanwhile, professor Damle, while talking to reporters, said that she was not aware that the RSS flag was so ‘highly respectable’.
The row over Muslim professor
The students of the Sanskrit Department have been sitting on a dharna for past four days against the appointment of a 29-year-old Muslim professor, Feroz Khan.
Khan was appointed to Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan as an assistant professor on November 5.
Issuing a clarification on the issue, the BHU said, “The idea behind the establishment of the varsity was to contribute in nation building by providing an equal opportunity to every deserving people of study and teaching without any discrimination.”
“The appointment was a unanimous decision made by the selection committee under transparent process,” the clarification letter read.
The protesters have alleged that the process of appointment was rigged in favour of Khan and “this is a part of conspiracy as the plaque in BHU clearly says that a non-Hindu can neither study nor teach Sanskrit here”.
Khan was unavailable for his comments.