On September 21 2017, a III-year female student pursuing her Bachelors in Fine Arts complained that she was sexually harassed by two motorcyclists while returning to her hostel at around 7:00 p.m. She told the proctorial board’s security personnel about the same who allegedly blamed her for being out , and not at her hostel after sunset.
Owing to the administration’s treatment of the incident as negligible, the student, along with her friends and fellow female students from Mahila Mahavidyalaya and IIT BHU staged a demonstration the next day. They demanded better security conditions, including CCTV cameras, recruitment of female security personnel, and formation of a gender sensitization committee (GSCASH).
The administration responded by blaming the protests as a politically motivated act against Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Varanasi and pointed out that the girl who was sexually harassed had already met the VC on Thursday. The protests continued on Friday (September 22 2017) and Saturday (September 22 2017) and in response to the growing numbers, heavy police personnel and a CPMF contingent was deployed on the BHU campus.
This clash between students and police resulted in a more agitated crowd that led to further retaliation by police in form of a lathi charge to disperse the gathered students. This use of brute force was criticized by leaders and politicians across party lines and throughout the country.
Commemorating this act of struggle and protests against the patriarchal practices of BHU, a few students gathered outside Vishwa Nath Mandir and Mahila Mahavidyalaya for a form of celebration on September 23 2018. Following these demonstrations, the protesting students were met with opposition from various student groups from ABVP and the Samajwadi party, as alleged by the Students for Change organization (SFC).
This resulted in subsequent clashes between the present groups that caused the administration and the proctorial board to interfere and “separate the two groups to bring the situation under control.” Kumari Ipshita, the joint secretary of SFC, and Vandana Kumari, the secretary for SFC, were two of the many demonstrators present at the site of the protest. On November 24 2018, the administration of IIT BHU sent a notice to Ipshita and Vandana, informing them of a Standing Student Disciplinary Committee to be held on November 29.
In the enclosed charges, the administration of IIT BHU held the above two students responsible for “being a part of the programs organized by student leaders” and “displaying behaviour that could be disruptive to the university’s peaceful activity.”
Following the release of this notice, the SFC, in a press release, has condemned this act by the administration of IIT BHU and has demanded the authorities to repeal the said notice. The SFC has also said that they found IIT BHU’s administration stand on the current issue as well as their last notice on a ban on protests as deeply unconstitutional.
Along with this, the SFC has alleged that the administration practised selective treatment, by not holding the other students, who reportedly instigated the violence, to similar standards, despite having an FIR lodged against them.
The members of the SFC claimed that this is not the first time the University has resorted to this kind of preferential treatment. The organization maintained that the students who questioned any existing system were always targeted, whereas those who repeatedly created havoc were never questioned by the administration.
The administration of IIT BHU has not responded to the requests of a comment on the issue, we will add updates if they do.