The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) continued to stay in the eye of the storm as the government sought a change in the university leadership to tide over the recent controversy.
The Indian Express reported that the HRD ministry has started the search for the next vice-chancellor of BHU while the government has asked the incumbent, GC Tripathi, to go on leave. The ministry wants to avoid a situation where Tripathi continues on his post beyond his tenure while his successor is appointed.
The report further states that senior functionaries in the government feel that Tripathi going on leave will be the best course of action. Tripathi’s three-year term expires on 27 November.
While Tripathi has been under pressure since the incidents broke out, his position became particularly precarious after a government probe panel blamed the university administration for the violence, according to Hindustan Times. The panel consisting of Varanasi divisional commissioner Nitin Ramesh Gokarn and Additional Director General of Police Vishwajeet Mahapatra, said in their report that the situation would not have turned violent if the BHU administration had taken the sexual harassment complaint seriously.
The administration did not assess the seriousness of the agitation properly and kept the district administrative officials in the dark, said the report.
NHRC and NCW slam authorities
Tripathi has also been issued notice by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over alleged inaction on "complaints of eve-teasing" on the campus, and the police action against the students, who were protesting over the issue.
The NHRC said that it has taken cognisance of media reports about alleged inaction on the part of the authorities on a "complaint of eve-teasing and subsequent use of unwarranted manhandling and thrashing of agitating students, mostly women, by the Uttar Pradesh Police". The panel issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh chief secretary and the director general of police, and the BHU V-C, seeking a detailed report in four weeks.
"They have been asked to include the details of action taken against the miscreants and precautionary measures taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur," the NHRC said in a statement.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) too said that Tripathi should act as a responsible administrator and ensure the safety and dignity of women on the campus. The Commission also hit out at vice-chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi over his reported remarks that BHU cannot pay heed to "every demand of every girl". NCW officials did not respond to queries about statutory measures being contemplated.
Earlier, while speaking on the violent protests, Tripathi told The Indian Express that if the complaints and demands of every girl were to be listened to, he will not be able to run the university. He later denied making the statement in an interview to CNN-News18.
The vice-chancellor also justified strict curfew timings in girls' hostel and alleged gender biases by saying that the security of girls and boys can never be at par. The statement spurred widespread outrage over Tripathi's alleged trivialisation of an important issue.
Chief proctor resigns
Tripathi is still holding on to his position but the administration has already seen personnel changes. Chief proctor ON Singh submitted his resignation to Tripathi on Tuesday night, which was accepted by the latter. Singh resigned, taking moral responsibility for the incident.
Singh told Firstpost that he submitted his resignation around 11.30 pm, after a ‘realisation that the problems in the varsity’ were nowhere close to ending. On being asked if he was asked to resign, he refused to comment but said, "I'll let you (the media) decide if I am being made the 'scapegoat' of this controversy."
The resignation took place shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah spoke to Yogi Adityanath about the campus unrest that threatened to spread to other universities.
BHU students, however, remain unconvinced by the resignation. They have termed Singh's resignation a farce and an eyewash. They said that the agitation will continue till Tripathi steps down.
Sources told Firstpost that Professor Mahendra Kumar Singh, the head of ophthalmology department, has been handed the additional charge. But when contacted, he seemed unaware of this development. "I'm only learning about this from the media," he said.
Incidents of sexual harassment arise in other Uttar Pradesh universities
Hindustan Times reported that three new cases of sexual harassment had come to light in Lucknow, Allahabad and Kanpur after the BHU incident. At Allahabad University, a student was expelled and a police case was registered against him after a female student raised accusations against him. At Lucknow University, an MBA student was accused of sending objectionable phone messages to a female student. Also, at IIT Kanpur, students were threatening to protest after action was not initiated against a youth accused of passing lewd remarks while a female student was playing badminton.
These are not stray incidents but are part of a rising trend. Uttar Pradesh reported a 33 percent rise in sexual harassment cases from 2014 to 2015, according to national crime data. The data also reveals that 74 percent cases went unpunished. Sexual harassment cases now comprise three-fourths of all assaults recorded against women in Uttar Pradesh, the conviction rate rising from 16 percent in 2014 to 26 percent in 2015, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
The fact that these incidents are being noticed more is an indication that more women today are coming forward to report crimes against them, according to experts. Crime statistics in UP are often unreliable and likely to be under-reported, IndiaSpend reported on 13 March, 2015.
Authorities come under heavy pressure
Opposition of all hues rose against the handling of the matter by the authorities. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP for the lathicharge on girl students, as he tweeted, "BJP version of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao in BHU," attaching a video link of the students who alleged that they were beaten up by male policemen at the campus.
Senior Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav denounced the alleged police action and said the issue will be raised in Parliament. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, "The government should resolve the issue by talks, not by lathicharge. It is condemnable. Action should be taken against the guilty."
Congress leaders Raj Babbar and PL Punia, along with scores of party activists, were detained on Thursday when they tried to visit the BHU. They were later released.
The Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI) and the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) staged demonstrations in New Delhi against the baton-charge on BHU students. ABVP condemned the police action against the students and demanded the constitution of a fact-finding committee, while NSUI demanded an inquiry under a sitting High Court judge and resignation of the BHU vice-chancellor.
Alumni smell a rat
Mumbai-based alumni of BHU have alleged there is a conspiracy to defame the institution, and criticised the administration for its failure to handle the violence on the campus. Pyare Lal, a BHU alumnus working as a consultant with Indian Naval Maritime Academy, claimed that the violence was orchestrated at the behest of opposition parties. “When I was a student, leaders of Sanyukt Yuvjan Sabha (a youth body) were responsible for damaging the academic environment and closure of the university for a long period. Now the situation is being repeated,” he said.
Ex-student Siddh Vidya, an advocate, dismissed the allegations of rampant eve-teasing made by a section of students. “I studied there and stayed in a girls hostel for eight years, but did not face even a single incident of this nature. I visited the BHU a few days ago and found everything like before. There is something fishy (about recent incidents),” Vidya said.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Sep 28, 2017 02:44 pm | Updated Date: Sep 28, 2017 02:47 pm