Whenever women students of BHU protested in the past, the administration has nipped it in the bud by threatening expulsion and suspension.
The Banaras Hindu University is in the headlines, but this is not the first time the female students are on the warpath.
The students of the university had staged a mass protest on the 22nd and 23rd of this month, enraged by the molestation of a female student on campus and on the lack of action by the administration. The protest went out of hand, ending in a lathi charge.
Whenever female students have protested in the past, the first reaction of the BHU administration is to nip the protest in the bud, by threatening them with expulsion and suspension. The demands raised by the protestors are not fulfilled, but the protestors are always punished in an exemplary manner, scaring others from raising their voices.
Here are some examples of the previous protests:
September 2012: Protest in MMV Hostels against bad quality of food in the mess
The inmates of the hostels in Mahila Mahavidyalaya, BHU staged a protest where they refused to eat in the hostel mess, saying it is of bad quality and cooked under unhygienic conditions.
The protest lasted for a day and a half, after which Raka, a second year hostel student of B.A. Arts was asked to vacate the hostel for enticing other girls to protest. The quality of food did not improve.
January 2014: Female Students protest against sudden fee hike
Protests took place against sudden fee hike by the university administration in which students from all over the university participated. Although fee increase was rolled back, the female protestors were personally targeted, threatened with suspension and had to face the brunt of cruel remarks by the administration for a very long time.
On the other hand, male students who also participated say that life was back to normal for them.
May 2015: Protest by students of MMV against not being allowed to appear in semester exams
On the 7 May, 2015, a large number of girls from the Mahila Mahavidyalaya sat down in protest at the college gate because some of their friends were not being allowed to sit for their exams because they were short on attendance. They said that it was unfair to stop them as no previous warning had been issued to them that they were short on attendance and they could not address it. The protest went on late into the night and at around 2 a.m, the Dean Of Students agreed to let the students write the exam after attending an extra month of remedial classes.
Although students were allowed to write the exam, the protestors were individually identified and later targeted by the administration. The administration refused to allot them hostel rooms for the next academic session. Later, after much humiliation and harassment of the students and their parents, three-seater rooms were allotted to these students even though they were in the final year. Their batchmates were given two-seater room.
Parents were admonished for letting their daughters participate in protests and even for letting them wear shorts.
May 2015: Protest by residents of Triveni Hostel Complex against sexual harassment of an inmate
Another inmate of the Triveni Hostel Complex, which has recently been in the news, was sexually harassed by a boy near the hostel premises. The administration blamed the girl, who was a research scholar. A large number of students marched in her support and spent the night outside the VC Lodge demanding an audience.
The VC did not make an appearance. Protestors included a large number of female research scholars. They were identified and calls were made to their research guides asking them to pressure the scholars to return.
The students buckled under pressure and the protest was withdrawn. Two days later, the VC addressed the girls in Triveni and promised better security arrangements which were never delivered, leading to the incident on the 21 September this year.
March 2017: Students of Mahila Mahavidyalaya protest demanding adequate infrastructure
After the much-hyped interview given to a media channel by four students of Mahila Mahavidyalaya in BHU, protests were held demanding equal rights and better infrastructure, including Wi-Fi. Although the demands were not met, the wardens started personally targeting students, accusing them of enticing their fellow students. Objectionable remarks were made about the students’ upbringing and their parents were also unnecessarily dragged in.
There has been a long history in the BHU Campus of female students’ movements being pushed aside without resolving the real issues. If only the administration had treated its students with more respect, a movement of the magnitude of the one which started on the 21 September, would never have begun in the first place.
The administration once again tried to use its usual threats of suspension and rustication to scare off the students. But this time, the students too had decided that it was better to be suspended than to live in a campus as unsafe as this.
Earlier this year, the Vice Chancellor of BHU addressed the girls at the MMV auditorium. One of the things he said was: “For me, a daughter is one who chooses her brother’s career over her own.”
It was whispers of pain suppressed for long which turned into a loud shout. The girls at the Banaras Hindu University will not be ignored anymore.
Aishwarya Prakash is a post-graduate student at the Faculty Of Social Sciences in B.H.U.