Condemning Police Action on Students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU)
Shri. Ram Nath Kovind
Honourable President of India and Ex-Officio Visitor of Central Universities,
Government of India
Shri. Narendra Modi
Hon’able Prime Minister of India and Member Parliament, Varanasi,
Government of India
Shri. Yogi Adityanath
Hon’able Chief Minister
State of Uttar Pradesh, Government of U.P.
We strongly condemn the university authorities and the brutal police action on students sitting on a strike since 22nd of September protesting against the sexual harassment within the campus premise. The protest of the students was brutally crushed as police forces lathi charged and injured students on the night of 23 September. The police entered the university campus and the girls hostels and dragged girls out and assaulted them. They used tear gas and rubber bullets were used on the unarmed students. Even those students sitting on hunger strike were not spared.
What is even more appalling is the response of the state and University administration to the public outrage against this barbaric act. The Vice Chancellor has reacted to this incident of peaceful protest by forcibly shutting down all girls hostels till October 2nd and literally throwing the girls out. Hostel administration have been instructed to call guardians of the girls to mention that the hostels are shut down and that anyone who stays back should do that at their own risk, University administration will not be responsible.
This is a complete failure of the Vice Chancellor of the University to protect students and their rights to free speech. The administration has miserably failed to respond institutionally to an incident as grave as sexual harassment. Instead it has responded by unleashing violence on peaceful and non-violent protestors and choosing to crush the constitutional rights of students of free speech and expression.
We demand immediate action be taken against the police for the brutal act, suspension of the SP/DIG, judicial enquiry of the event and meeting the demands of the students and ensure their treatment and safety. We demand accountability of the University authorities as students are living and studying within the University premises and their safety has to be guaranteed by the head of the institution.
This protest was spurred off by a recent incident that happened in evening of 21st, when a student was on her way back to the hostel from the department.
She was stopped and harassed by some unidentified individuals inside the campus. When this incident happened, the girl immediately reached out to the security personnel posted nearby the spot. They refused to help and instead told her that it was her fault as she was roaming around on the road after dark. The incident happened around 6 pm in the evening. She went back to her hostel and shared her plight with her fellow students. The students decided to complain to the Dean of Student, but there also the girls were turned away saying that it was their problem and they need to be careful and not be outdoors after dark.
This is however, not an isolated incident, as students of BHU have been constantly raising issues of gender-based discrimination in the hostels since the last one year. They have been complaining of curfew timings in hostels, discriminatory food in the hostel, where girls are only offered vegetarian food whereas boys hostels are constantly serving non-vegetarian food. Girls are also subjected to discriminatory polices, such as forcing them to sign affidavits that restricts them to participate in any agitation or protest, whereas boys are made to do no such thing.
Since the morning of 22nd of September, more than 1000 girls gathered in front of the main gate of BHU and protesting against the insensitive attitude of the administration, especially the Vice Chancellor of the University. The student who was subjected to the harassment, shaved her head at the protest venue and joined the agitation. They demand for equal space and rights. The students demand for:
1. Ensure strict legal action against those responsible for the harassment faced by the student concerned
2. Make provisions of lighting up all the dark zones and spots of the University campus
3. Continuous patrolling of security guards
4. Gender sensitization of administrative staff and teaching faculty
5. Provision for hostels for girls
6. Abolition of curfew timings in girls hostels
7. Formation of Gender Sensitization and Sexual Harassment Committee
8. Recruitment of women security personnel
9. Inclusion of female functionaries in Proctorial board
10. Equality in food offered in hostels of boys and girls
11. Installation of CCTV cameras in prominent spots
We demand immediate action be taken against the brutal police act and setting up of judicial enquiry of this event. We demand that the requirements put down by the students are met immediately.
In Solidarity with the students of BHU,
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, MKSS
Abha Bhaiya, Jagori
Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University
Prof. Satish Deshpande, Delhi University
Prof. Nivedita Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Prof. Shoba Ghosh, Mumbai University
Dr. Mary E John, Centre for Women Studies
Prof. Rajni Palriwala, Delhi University
Dr. Brinda Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Prof. Ayesha Kidwai, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Kavita Srivastava, PUCL
Arundhuri Dhuru, NAPM
Monoj Mitta, Journalist and Author
Dr. Dilip Simeon
Mukul Mangalik, University of Delhi
Panchali Ray, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Maya Krishna Rao
Virginia Saldanha, Mumbai
Niti Saxena, Lucknow
Shampa Sengupta, Disabilities and Gender Rights Activists, Kolkata
Susie Tharu, Hyderabad
Madhu Bhushan, Bangalore
Annanya Bhattacharjee, Garment and Allied Workers Union, North India
Shambhu Ghatak, Inclusive Media, Common Cause
Amrita Nandy, Delhi
Svati Joshi, Delhi University
Uma V Chandru, WSS, Bangalore
Ajita, Dalit Feminist Delhi
Ritambhara Mehta and Nazariya, A Queer Feminist Resource Group
Mast Ram, Jagori
Anupama Rawat, Jagori Rural
Anoop Kumar, Jagori
Asha Sharma, Jagori