Last Thursday (21st September 2017), a girl was sexually harassed (the term eve-teasing is abhorrent hence the usage of the term sexual harassment) within the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus. When the complaint was lodged and ignored by the administration and when the Vice Chancellor of the University made sexist comments about the victim; a protest broke out which soon turned violent as the police administered lathi charge at women protestors. This incident has caused furor all over the country owing to which the Yogi Adityanath (CM to Uttar Pradesh) and Mr. Narendra Modi (The PM) have intervened and asked for a probe into the matter. The protestors have been accused of transgressing code of conduct secured by patriarchy for women. They have been labeled as anti-national and their careers have been threatened to be put into jeopardy.
Media (The Indian Express) has reported that the Vice Chancellor had not only delayed in responding to the protest but had been inactive when the sexual harassment incident had taken place. The primary intention of the Vice Chancellor was to minimize press coverage rather than addressing the issue at hand. The girls have been locked out of their hostel premises and are forced to quit their agitation.
The Vice Chancellor of BHU has been known to be defensive about Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh ideologies and has also done away with meat eating within the premises and banned wi-fi within the campus. This compounded with the recent protest and the way it was handled; is condemnable. Educational institutions should create thinking individuals whose zest to societal reformation should be encouraged. It is horrifying when such events happen that threaten to or demolish the very foundation of independence, democracy, secularism and gender equality in the very area where such value systems are imbedded.
The Director of Centre for Social Research, Dr. Ranjana Kumari hails from Benares and had started her movement for women empowerment when she witnessed bride burning in the city back in the 1970s. She had also been active in protesting the Sati incident that took place in Rajasthan in the 1990s. It has been 35 years, since as an institution we have been not only advocating gender equality but also a democratic country where freedom of choice, expression and right to sexual orientation is encouraged rather than been trampled upon. This incident is a violation of all the rights and liberties accorded to women in the country, and we are ashamed that the frequency of such incidents have desensitized us to such an extent that we don’t take them seriously. We hope that the governments and the concerned authorities take swift action and resolve this matter on an urgent basis.