Two days after Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Vice Chancellor G C Tripathi denied the incident of police lathi-charge on students, wardens of the varsity’s Mahila Maha Vidyalaya (MMV) on Wednesday said besides women students, a warden of the women’s hostel and journalists were also at the sharp end of police batons.
Late Saturday night, police personnel charged at a large group of protesters at the BHU main gate. As students, in order to save themselves, rushed towards MMV, one of the many hostels on campus, one student towards the rear of the group fell. According to Pratima Gond, an assistant professor of sociology and one of the wardens at the hostel that accommodates 1,000 students, the police swung their batons on the back of the student writhing on the ground, and she rushed out to save her.
Gond shielded the “thin, slightly built first-year student” on the ground, and took blows of police lathis on her hand, upper arm and head.
“I am still in shock,” Gond said on Wednesday. “I keep recalling Saturday night’s incident… How could policemen have come into our (women’s) hostel premises without warrant and beat women? Why were there no women police personnel? I have only one question to ask of those who say the police had lathi-charged only criminal elements: do I look like a criminal? Was I indulging in violence? Did I throw petrol bombs, or hurl abuses?”
“I was a teacher on duty, and it was my duty to ensure safety of my students — we are answerable to their parents,” Gond said, two days after she sent a letter to V-C Tripathi underlining these grievances.
Her fellow warden and professor, Patience Philips, said all wardens were present when the students came running inside, being beaten and chased by the police.
Sandhya Singh, principal of MMV and chief warden of the hostel, sent a letter to V-C after his assertion that only criminal and anti-social elements, and not students, were beaten by police. She also wrote that besides students, a warden was also beaten by the police.
“We request university authorities to probe this incident,” Sandhya Singh, a professor of clinical psychology, wrote. She said the letter to the V-C office has not elicited a response. “We are still waiting to see how things proceed,” she said.
Gond said she imagined the police would stop at seeing her, but soon realised it was a “misconception”. “I am a grown woman, and I am easily distinguishable from students…. Mai poochna chahti hun, kya itna identity crisis ho gaya tha (was there so much identity crisis)? At least they should have heeded to me when I was going on saying that I am a teacher. But they kept saying ‘toh kya? (so what?)’ as they hit me. They hit journalists also,” Gond said.
Worse, “it is also being said that there was no lathi-charge” she said, showing photocopies of her CT Scan and X-Rays, which show a fracture in one finger.
Gond said she will approach the women’s commission and NHRC if the university does not probe and get back. “I am a teacher of Constitution safeguards. I teach students that we all enjoy equal rights. Now students will ask me how can I say that when we were beaten up by men in our very own institution. If we are not safe here, where will we be safe? This is not just about me or an attack on students of MMV. This is an attack on the honour of women.