On the night of November 1st, a female student was subjected to horrific sexual violence in the IIT BHU campus. On her way from her hostel, she was held hostage by three men on a motorcycle who molested, groped and gang-raped her. They disrobed her while taking photos and videos and when she tried to resist, they threatened to kill her. Soon after the 1st November incident, BHU students rose up in protest demanding justice for the survivor and accountability for the BHU administration's criminal apathy.
While it was the task of the BHU administration to take all necessary steps to aid the survivor's quest for justice, we instead find the authorities leaving no stone unturned to crush the peaceful demonstration in solidarity with the survivor. The BHU administration stooped lower when it shamelessly invited the UP Police into its premises and gave it complete authority to unleash barbaric violence on the protesting students. Till now the accused roam free while charges under grave provisions have been filed against 17 protesting students including AISA activists and leading face of the protest Chanda, Roshan, Anurati and Rajesh.
Interestingly, the ABVP which had so far been completely absent from the protest, arrived at the protest the same day as the UP Police. And in a shameless display of complicity with the BHU administration's agenda to sabotage the movement for gender justice, the UP Police and the ABVP together attacked the peacefully protesting students.
The series of incidents that have unfolded since November 2nd, draw a close parallel to another incident that happened in the same campus in 2017. In the last six years, the BHU administration has remained stubbornly orthodox and regressive. The ICC has consistently failed to ensure even basic gender sensitisation, leave alone ensuring a safe and secure campus for its women students.
The standard operating procedure for the BHU administration, whenever complaints of sexual harassment and assault have come to light, have remained the same. Rather than ensuring justice for the survivor, the BHU administration has always resorted to survivor blaming and crackdown on students demanding justice. If after the incident of 2017, the then proctor of the University had asked the complainant as to why she was outside of her hostel in the evening, in the present incident, the administration has filed FIIRs against protesting students. The blatant discrimination against women students in BHU reminds us of the core ideology of the present regime that runs the country. Being a central university, BHU comes directly under the Ministry of Education of the central government. While clear guidelines of ending all forms of discriminatory practices against women students have been given by the Saksham Guideline of UGC in 2013, universities like BHU openly violate those guidelines under protection from the central government. While discriminatory curfew timing for women hostels are already in place, the BHU administration is preparing to build up walls surrounding the premises of IIT BHU so that students can not unite to protest when incidents of sexual harassment come to light. After the 2017 protest against sexual harassment in the campus, the BHU administration built up massive walls near the women’s hostels and installed CCTV cameras directing to the entrance of the women’s hostels to monitor entry and exit of the students. It is indeed hard to believe that in the 21st Century, in the constituency of the Prime Minister himself, such regressive moral policing on women continues unabated.
AISA and AIPWA observed national protest against the horrific incident of sexual assault and crackdown on protesting students. The need of the hour is to unite and demand end to the culture of protecting sexual assaulter, survivor blaming and punishing women for facing sexual harassment by building walls around their mobility and freedom.