The Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), GC Tripathi, remains defiant in the face of the flak he is getting for the mayhem that broke out on the campus after an incident of sexual harassment came to light on 21 September.
In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, he openly admitted that security measures for boys and girls cannot be "at par". BHU has been criticised by its alumni as well as current students for having policies that give more leeway to the male students over the women. The curfew hours, choice of diet and lifestyle starkly differ for the boys and girls, all of which Tripathi defended.
"If we are going to listen to every demand of every girl we won't be able to run the university," he told The Indian Express. "All these rules are for their safety, all in favour of the girl students."
According to Tripathi, the incident of molestation, which led to a massive outcry among the students and brutal police action to control them, was planted ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi.
By attributing a political colour to the fiasco, Tripathi seems to deflect attention from a problem that has plagued the institution for a while.
As a HuffPost story pointed out, BHU has a sordid history of sexual violence, with several such incidents being reported since Tripathi was appointed VC in 2014. Last year was especially turbulent in this regard, as the 101-year-old university's reputation was dragged in the mud. Apart from sexual crimes against the women on the campus, a man was allegedly gangraped in a moving car for hours, with neither the police nor the campus patrol detecting any wrongdoing.
As a report in The Times of India said, the long-standing tradition of sexual harassment of women at BHU has acquired an 'official' name. Known as "lanketing" after the popular Lanka Market in the area, the term refers to routine acts of teasing and accosting women visiting the place near BHU's iconic Singh Dwar gate.
Many women prefer to have a male companion while out in these parts and the victims do not complain for fear of being shamed. Uttar Pradesh, under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, introduced severe measures to "protect" women in public, including the infamous anti-Romeo squad, which badly backfired.
Accused of curtailing individual freedom in the guise of vigilantism, it was replaced by the Nari Suraksha Bal, which put the emphasis on women's safety, once again, by robbing the alleged "victims" of any agency to make their own choices of how they wished to conduct their lives in public.
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