BHU tense, breaks early for Dussehra after police crackdown on students
Tension ran high at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi on Sunday after an overnight police crackdown on students demonstrating against an alleged molestation on the campus and demanding bringing the culprits to justice.
Several students, mostly women, and policemen were wounded in clashes after university guards and cops cane-charged protesters in front of the vice chancellor’s home and at the main entrance to the century-old institution’s sprawling campus around midnight.
“A lot of students arrived at the trauma centre and the situation is tense, but there are no major injuries,” a BHU hospital official said.
The fracas forced the university to bring forward its Dussehra break by three days to September 25. Several other Uttar Pradesh universities, too, advanced their festival holidays to prevent the unrest from spreading and engulfing their institutes.
The campus unrest triggered a political blame game as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav hit out at the BJP-led government of Yogi Adityanath.
Chief minister Adityanath has asked for a report on the situation, officials said.
The protests began on Friday when a group of women started a sit-in at the entrance to the university following the proctor office’s refusal to take action on a student’s complaint of molestation the previous day.
Besides refusing action, the officials allegedly blamed the student for staying out beyond 5pm.
Angry over the administration’s response, students massed in front of vice chancellor GC Tripathi’s home on Saturday evening and shouted slogans.
The proctor’s board issued warnings before forces were deployed to remove the demonstrators, a BHU hospital source said.
The students alleged that campus security and police hit the protesters with lathis, pulled many of them by their hair and dragged them out of the spot. Most of the wounded were women, a student said, requesting not to be identified since it could upset her enrolment.
According to senior police superintendent RK Bhardwaj, students threw stones at the cops, wounding seven of them, including an officer. A case was filed against the protesters.
Arson was also reported as several vehicles were set on fire.
University officials blamed “outside elements” for the volatile situation, saying the students are being instigated.
Officials said the demonstration wasn’t peaceful and some of the slogans were extremely abusive.
“Anti-social elements along with girls who were not university students gathered outside the vice-chancellor’s residence,” BHU spokesperson Rajesh Singh said.
But he maintained that he has “no idea how those sitting on a dharna outside Tripathi’s residence were injured”.
Vice chancellor Tripathi named two men — Sunil Yadav and Sanjeev Singh — suspected of fanning the protests. They were apparently seen addressing the demonstrators.
“Girls associated with a particular organisation from Delhi University and Allahabad University instigated the BHU girls for the demonstration. They were part of the dharna at the BHU gates. Among the demonstrators, there were only a few BHU girls,” he said.
Tripathi said the administration formed a committee to investigate the unrest.
District magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra warned strict action against elements involved in fomenting trouble at the university.
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