LETTING FORMER Banaras Hindu University (BHU) vice-chancellor G C Tripathi off the hook, the judicial inquiry, set up by the varsity to probe the incident of lathicharge on students protesting an incident of sexual harassment last year, has blamed the state administration for inaction and even alluded to a political conspiracy behind the agitation and the subsequent violence on campus.
Former Allahabad High Court judge V K Dikshit, who was appointed in September 2017 by the then university V-C, submitted his report to the BHU authorities this month. According to university sources, a copy of the report has been shared with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Women (NCW) and the HRD Ministry.
On September 21 last year, a fine arts student of the university was allegedly molested on the university campus while returning to her hostel in the evening. Outraged by the incident, students gathered at the BHU main gate to protest the security guards’ indifferent response to the victim’s plea for help. The protest eventually led to a police lathicharge two days later.
Following the incident, which triggered widespread outrage, the then V-C was at the centre of a firestorm over his alleged mishandling of the protests and cases of alleged institutional bias against women. Tripathi, on government’s advice, went on leave on October 3, 2017, less than two months before his retirement, in an apparent bid to douse the agitation.
The findings of the V K Dikshit committee are significant against the above backdrop, especially when the divisional commissioner’s preliminary report on the incident, submitted to the Yogi Adityanath government last year, had blamed the BHU administration for not handling the incident, particularly the complaint of the victim, in a sensitive manner.
Here’s what the judicial inquiry found:
-Dikshit’s probe did not find anything wrong with the V-C’s conduct and his handling of the student protest. The report is learnt to have said that the university authorities discharged its duty by reaching out to the victim and informing the police immediately about the alleged molestation. It also says that officers of the BHU administration met the agitating students and assured them of timely action on their charter of demands.
-Pinning the blame on the state police and administration, the report states that the molestation incident would not have escalated into a student protest had the police assured safety to the women students on campus and conducted an immediate inquiry into the victim’s complaint.
-The report also indicts the district administration for not having its representative on campus on September 23, when the agitating crowd outside the university gate was beginning to get violent. The district administration, Dikshit is learnt to have observed, did not cooperate and not respond to the university’s repeated request for assistance and protection. He also states on record that no one from the UP police and state administration appeared before him to provide their version of the truth, despite reminders.
-The student protest on campus was politicised, the report states. Dikshit observes that outside elements with political motivation saw an opportunity in the Prime Minister’s ongoing visit and used the student agitation to sully the image of the university and its V-C, that is Tripathi. The protest would not have turned violent had it not been for the anti-social elements and political parties who provoked the students, the report states. In this context, the report also names AAP leader Sanjay Singh, AISA leader Sunil Yadav and former JNU student Mrityunjay Singh as people who provoked students.
Tripathi said he was not aware of the report’s findings when The Indian Express contacted him for comment on Monday.