Tensions at the renowned Banaras Hindu University (BHU), which has been on the boil ever since a female student was molested on campus four days ago, reached a tipping point on Monday. The state government removed three additional city magistrates of Varanasi and two police officers on Monday, and a high-level probe was ordered into the incident which has already spiralled into a major controversy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah spoke to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath about the incident, on the sidelines of the party's national executive meet.
Meanwhile, amid reports of police excesses on protesting students, the varsity turned into a political cauldron, with Congress and Samajwadi Party leaders rushing to the institute on Monday, while the police detained over 1,000 protesters, including Congress leaders and Samajwadi Party cadres.
Why is BHU on the boil?
Trouble started on Thursday, after three men riding a motorbike molested a student of the Bachelor of Fine Arts course of the Mahila Mahavidyala of the BHU while she was returning to her hostel, according to India Today.
According to the complainant, the men abused her and fled when she resisted their attempts. The woman alleged that security guards, who were about 100 metres from where the incident happened, did nothing to stop the accused. She said her warden, instead of taking up the issue with her superiors, asked her why was she was returning late to the hostel.
The warden's response angered the students who sat on a protest at the main gate at midnight. The students have alleged they have to face eve-teasers on the campus regularly and the varsity administration was not taking any action to stop the miscreants.
Police and professors tried to pacify the students, but they refused to end their protest and sought assurances from the university vice-chancellor. Meanwhile, the protests turned violent on Saturday, as some students, who wanted to meet the vice-chancellor at his residence, were stopped by the security personnel.
A BHU spokesperson said some students wanted to "forcibly" enter the vice-chancellor's residence but they were stopped by the BHU security guards. Subsequently, there was stone pelting by "outsiders" who had joined the students, he said.
The police baton charged the students in a bid to disperse them. A number of students, including women and two journalists, were injured in the lathicharge, varsity sources said.
This in turn fanned widespread outrage, giving rise to political bickering amid parties, even as videos and images of the police excesses were being shared on social media. Journalists too staged protests against the baton charge, which injured two mediapersons.
In the aftermath of the violence, the district administration has declared holiday till 2 October in all colleges and universities in Varanasi. The BHU had earlier announced that the holidays would start from 28 September. As opposition parties targeted BJP over the police action on the campus, Modi and Shah asked Adityanath to address the issue at the earliest.
An FIR has been filed against unidentified policemen in connection with the lathicharge on Saturday night. A case has also been registered against over 1,000 students in connection with the violence in the university, they said.
A press release from Varanasi's district information office said three additional city magistrates, Manoj Kumar Singh, Sushil Kumar Gaund and Jagdamma Prasad Singh, have been removed.
Nivesh Katiyar, circle officer of Bhelupur, has also been removed and has been replaced by Ayodhya Prasad Singh, circle officer of Kotwali, officials said; station officer of Lanka police station, Rajiv Singh, has been removed and sent to police lines; station officer of Jaitpura police station, Sanjiv Mishra, has been posted in his place, officials said.
"A committee has been constituted under the chief secretary. Necessary action will be taken on the basis of its report. The committee will examine other aspects and see as to how the police behaved," Governor Ram Naik said in Lucknow on Monday while responding to queries from mediapersons about the incident.
The governor described the incident as "sad". Adityanath too has sought a report from the divisional commissioner on details about the incident.
Congress and Samajwadi Party upped the ante against the BJP following the incident. SP workers held a sit-in in Varanasi and slogans were raised against Prime Minister Modi, following which the police detained over 200 activists while they were going to meet the injured and protesting students. Meanwhile, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Raj Babbar also rushed to empathise with the protesting students.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad also arrived in the city to attend a programme, but was detained by the police.
Congress also hit out at the BJP-led government, demanding the vice-chancellor be fired, and a judicial investigation be instituted. "We demand that the President of India, who is the Visitor of the university, immediately take cognisance of what has happened at BHU, and sack the vice-chancellor," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.
Attacking the BJP and its rule in Uttar Pradesh, Tewari said the government had been been a "failure" on all fronts and accused it of "shedding crocodile tears".
"We demand an inquiry by a sitting high court judge that should go into all facts and circumstances, as to how this atrocity was perpetrated and hold all those persons who were responsible for ordering this lathicharge to account," Tewari said.
The politicos also targeted Modi, who is also the Lok Sabha MP from the city. Congress questioned Modi's silence over the "preposterous and shocking" incident, and asked what his stand was on the atrocity perpetrated on the students in his parliamentary constituency. Describing the vice-chancellor as "incorrigible" and "insensitive", Tewari asked Modi if such a person could head an institute of academic excellence like the BHU.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Sep 26, 2017 06:56:50 IST