The incident of sexual harassment that led to protests by students at Banaras Hindu University was “created by outsiders” with “vested interests” who had an eye on the Prime Minister’s visit to Varanasi, BHU Vice-Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi has claimed. Speaking to The Indian Express in an exclusive interview, Tripathi also said that while the campus has adequate security measures in place, “security for boys and girls can never be at par”. Excerpts:
Students at BHU say that the safety of women on campus is a serious issue, especially after the complaint of sexual harassment last Thursday. Why are the students feeling insecure?
This (Thursday’s) incident is very unfortunate. I am very sad about it. But sometimes issues are there and some issues are created. This issue was created. I think this issue was created by outsiders and the shape it took is what is more unfortunate than the initial incident itself.
These people try to make a lie look like a truth, which innocent and immature minds take as the truth. A university is not the place for politics. Youth always stand for truth and justice. And here, the students stood for something that was made to look like the truth but was a lie.
Some people with vested interests and ulterior motives have triggered this incident. The students, if they had a grievance or complaint, should have suggested to the university to do something. But there is a mindset to disturb institutions of higher learning. BHU is not alone. Every university in the country is being disturbed.
This is so unfortunate that those people, who should have been sympathising with the victim, used her for political gains. The victim spoke to us and she was satisfied with the measures we were taking to address her complaints. In fact, she was unhappy about the politics created around the incident that happened to her.
I am doing my best, the university is doing its best to ensure women’s safety on the campus. We are arranging for streetlights and deploying more guards.
Who are the people whom, you say, have politicised the incident of molestation for vested interests?
First of all, it is not an incident of molestation, it is one of eve-teasing.
They are those who are not committed to the nation but work only for their individual selves. They don’t care about the nation or its institutions. Unke liye niji hit hi sab kuch hai. Prime Minister aane waale the, isiliye mujhe lagta hai yeh sab kuch karaya gaya tha (For them, personal benefit is everything. The Prime Minister was to visit and that’s why, I feel, all this was done). The molestation was done to trigger this fiasco is what I feel.
And some innocent students stood by these people, criminals and unidentifiable people, so we could not find who started this. They wanted me to come out and meet them but would I have gone to the bazaar (the gate where the protesters staged a sit-in) to talk? I had agreed to go to the MMV (Mahila Maha Vidyalaya). But these criminal elements began throwing petrol bombs and stones. How could I have gone?
But if you are saying that there is adequate security in campus, how did the student get molested and why was her identity revealed?
Incidents can happen and they do. There are 10,000 girls living here on campus. We can ensure their safety in the hostel, that is why there are curfew timings. But there are no such timings on the road outside, incidents happen. But what is important is how we handle the incident. This is such a big campus, anything can happen anywhere. We cannot assign a guard to every student.
The allegation that the university does not listen to students is false. This is spread by just a few students. There are 10,000 girls on campus but only a handful are the ones who always have such complaints. We are doing our best for the students. We have formed a committee headed by a high court judge to inquire into the incident.
This is a rumour that girls are scared or insecure on campus. Where Thursday’s incident happened, there is an amphitheatre where girls play sports wearing shorts. Ask them if they have any fear. This is not right to say that the BHU campus is unsafe for women. No such incident has ever happened since I took over as the V-C. No girl or student feels unsafe anywhere on campus. The only ones who always feel so are members of student bodies like AISA and SFI. But we are doing a lot for security. We are forming a security system in which senior students will also be part of the advisory committee if they volunteer.
But do you justify the lathicharge by police on the protesting students on Saturday night, especially the fact that policemen were taking action against women students?
The use of force was against criminals not girl students. It was such a situation that force had to be used. Police used force but only late in the night to take the protesters out. If force was used on girls, I have no idea.
Why has the university forced students out of hostels and closed for Dussehra holidays four days in advance?
There is no such written order issued to empty hostels. This was also one of the many rumours spread. The holidays were preponed because of the situation that arose and now everything is calm and under control. And if someone is doing “netagiri” then, of course, we will shut the hostels and campus.
Students say that their protest was not only about unsafe campuses but also about gender discrimination in hostels and the university. Why are there different rules for boys and girls?
This is an allegation… This is such a big university and there are several problems managing it but there is no gender discrimination. There is no gender discrimination in hostels. For instance, what is the need for female students to access the cyber library when we have enabled WiFi in their hostels. Which university has a 24×7 library functional?
But students in the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya say that WiFi was enabled only two weeks ago in their hostel while the boys’ hostel has always had it?
It was recently installed but that is what we are saying, we are doing our best for female students, working for their security in their best interests.
Why are there different curfew timings for girls and boys?
No, girls stay out late at night. No one complains. Girls can give a written application if they need to stay out beyond the curfew time for tuitions, coaching class or other such needs and when they do, we readily allow it. And everyone is happy with this arrangement.
Parents say that this is the most suitable and safe campus. If something happens to their daughters, then who will be answerable? The curfew time for girls is 8 pm and for boys 10 pm, but that is for the security of both. It is good that the curfew timings for MMV and Triveni girls’ hostels is 8 pm, in one other girls’ hostel, it is 6 pm. Security for boys and girls can never be at par. If we are going to listen to every demand of every girl we won’t be able to run the university. All these rules are for their safety, all in favour of the girl students.
But the girl students say they do not get non-vegetarian food in their hostels while the boys do.
That is because for Rs 80 a day, we can’t provide non-veg. We give the girls four rich meals in a day, including an omelette in the morning, which is non-veg. There is no restriction on eating non-veg. The girls decide the menu. How can we provide non-veg meals when the daily mess fee is just Rs 80?