By Anand Singh:
There are two defining features of the enigma that Banaras Hindu University is: one is its strikingly resplendent campus, while the other one is the quagmire of generic violence which has slowly crept in over the past few years and is increasingly threatening to rip apart the already taut academic fabric of the University. There are relatively few exceptions to the rule which says ‘Violence begets violence, ad infinitum.’ A bevy of incidents which have taken place in the recent past have established this adage even more succinctly for BHU.
In the month of July 2015, BHU administration imposed a ban on anyone entering the campus with their face covered with a cloth, as is customary in this part of the world in order to escape the searing heat of the plain. The establishment argued that the decision to do so was taken in the wake of a chain snatching incident on the campus, pointing out that the perpetrators had their face tightly wrapped with a piece of cloth to conceal their identity.
On the 14th of this month (August 2015) though, three students careened their way inside the campus on a bike and they all had their faces covered. The personnel of the security establishment (Proctorial board) interrupted their way at the Hyderabad Gate through which they had entered the campus and asked them to take off their makeshift masks. The students, who hailed from the Faculty of Social Sciences, got into a scuffle with the members of the proctorial board over their refusal to reveal their identities. Following which, one of them was taken to the proctorial board office and was beaten black and blue. The student was later admitted to the University’s Trauma center with minor injuries.
This news soon wafted across the campus to the hostels of the Faculty of Social Sciences and within no time all hell broke loose. The students dispersed in groups of 7-8 and thrashed mercilessly any member of the proctorial staff they managed to lay their hands upon (proctorial staff members are visibly conspicuous by their khaki coloured uniform). It was a classic case of Cicero the poet getting killed by the mob just because his namesake was a conspirator who stabbed Julius Caesar to death.
Meanwhile, when a few vehicles were set on fire and the chief entry point to the campus was laid siege to by the students, the administration caved in. Contingents of Provincial Armed Constabulary, Rapid Action Force and the district police marched inside the sprawling campus, in their full regalia. Sourabh Tiwari, a masters student of Journalism at the University recounted the grisly scene: “Armed men in their full battle insignia, replete with their armamentarium took control of the campus. It was frightening to the hilt watching them marching in tightly formed regiments across the length and breadth of the afflicted campus. It was like witnessing a communal flare being put down ruthlessly as is broadcast on news channels.”
A posse of RAF personnel was deployed at Vishwanath temple situated within the campus. The entire temple premise bore an uncannily desolate look as most of the shops had downed their shutters fearing a violent backlash by the students.
The entire University campus was transmogrified into a virtual fortress, heavily guarded by the Central Reserve Police. The administration wasn’t in a mood to take even a slim chance, for it knew that things could spiral out of their hands within a fraction of a second, as has happened in the past as well, here in this volatile air of BHU.
There is a simple explanation, which I choose to delude myself into believing, for all that happened on that fateful day. A deep sense of distrust has made its way in the impressionable minds of the students regarding the apathetic administrative apparatus. And as far as the proctorial team is concerned, both the parties are locked in a perpetual state of embittered conflict. Students perceive the security personnel as a bunch of lazy and incompetent sloths who waste away their time sitting and sipping tea casually, doing absolutely nothing. A few proctorial board staff I talked to echoed similar sentiments and complained that they had very little power in their hands to rein in any potential untoward incident. Their wings have been clipped by those who sit at the higher echelons of power.
Going by the quantitative graph, this was the third major incident of violence and arson within the campus. The violence which erupted last November (2014) over the issue of student union elections assumed such mammoth proportions that it had to be put down heavily by Provincial Armed Constabulary. The University was held to ransom once again in April when a minor scuffle between the students from Law faculty and IIT soon escalated into a full blown war. PAC had to intervene once again at the behest of the University to quell the violence. At each of the occasions, the University administration wasted no time in expressing its inability to communicate effectively with its own students to end the logjam. It is almost as if the administrative machinery has reconciled itself to the fact that it can no longer trust its students. Let alone have any form of dialogue with them.
Meanwhile, life has not become any better for those who live on campus. Teaching staff often complain that BHU is slowly degrading into a miniature ‘Police State’ where PAC is perennially garrisoned at the juncture between Birla C hostel and Broacha hostel. Richard Horo, an inmate of Birla C hostel bolstered this feeling when he said, “We live under the constant fear of a midnight clampdown by the PAC on our hostel. The memories of last November haven’t died down yet.”
Seeds of rancour have taken root so deep the crevices of imagination that even the most potent of drugs might find it difficult to do away with the malignant cells. A strange tension pervades the atmosphere of the campus. You could almost feel the campus teetering precariously on the edge of a lethal cliff. All it would take is a gentle nudge and the epic fall shall begin once again.
I might be wrong in assuming that ever since Prof. G C Tripathi has been sworn in as the Vice Chancellor, such incidences have shot up. But a V.C. who likes to go about the campus in a motorcade, with a posse of armed security personnel flashing their weapons proudly in front of the students can hardly take note of the situation. A casual stroll around the erstwhile peaceful campus is what it’d take to bring the truth crashing down upon you.
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