As the VC of BHU what Girish Tripathi said is deeply problematic. Here's why
Consider this: an 8 PM curfew for women. In fact, a 6 PM curfew for one hostel. Meanwhile, men enjoy the luxury of a 10 PM curfew. This, according to Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Vice-Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi, is for the safety of women.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Tripathi fired off a series of statements that makes one cringe. The headline neatly sums it up: 'If we listen to every girl, we can’t run the university: BHU VC Girish Chandra Tripathi'.
In the interview, Tripathi speaks about on-campus security, or rather the lack of it; justifies different curfews for men and women, and explains why the hostels couldn't afford to feed its boarders non-vegetarian food, among other similarly regressive issues.
Tripathi's fiefdom, the BHU, made headlines over the weekend when UP police brutally cracked down on those protesting against the molestation of a female student.
In response to the backlash against the state and college administration, the VC offered up a series of moot points that were as simple as they were senseless:
- Some people with vested interests and ulterior motives were responsible for the episode.
- What could the university, spread across some 1,365 acres and housing around 10,000 women in 18 hostels possibly do?
- The varsity cannot keep everyone safe from outsiders.Safety is simply too much to ask for.
And, of course, since no discourse in the country is complete without it, Tripathi claimed it was the handiwork of anti-nationals out to create trouble in light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Varanasi.
But of course! You see, All of this is why saffronisation is so necessary. After all, you can't let them play in shorts AND keep them safe! That's absurd.
Basically, Tripathi put on record something that is already known: basic security for women, street lights, functional closed-circuit television cameras on campus, guards who do not tell female students, “Shaam 6 baje ke baad ghumogi to yeh hi hoga (this is what happens if you are outside after 6 pm)” when they try to lodge a complaint, female proctors – are all too much to expect from a place like BHU.
The bigger problem, of course, is that Tripathi's arguments are more absurd than his administration's failure to do something concrete for a female student who was molested on campus. Ironically, the incident occurred well before her 'curfew' time.
“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,” Tripathi said.
TV channels, over the last few days, have been airing video clips of BHU students complaining about the lack of basic safety on campus. One warden admits on camera that there have been complaints of harassment, but since there is a hospital and a temple in the university area, how is one to know who comes and goes?
(You can see some of the clips and the warden's point here.)
Tripathi calls the weekend's incident and the protests that followed politically motivated, without caring to explain how is asking for street lights and CCTV cameras politically motivated.
“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...This is such a big campus, anything can happen anywhere. We cannot assign a guard to every student,” Tripathi says.
By that logic, the only places safe on the campus are the hostels, since the authorities cannot do anything about what happens on the roads and thus needs to impose curfews.
The molestation that has been reported took place about 6 pm. But then, 6 baje ke baad bahar ghumogi to...
“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... 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,” Tripathi added.
Let's assume that these allegations ARE politically motivated, but even then, why would the university shoot down sexual harassment allegations and safety concerns voiced by any student? Have complaints and 'feelings' of these AISA and SFI students been ignored because they are politically active and it is all a big conspiracy to malign Tripathi and his prime minister?
Surakhsha ke naam pe quaid (Prisons in the name of security)
Speaking of curfews, why exactly are men allowed to stay out two hours longer than women on 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 (Mahila Maha Vidyalaya) and Triveni girls’ hostels is 8 PM, in one other girls’ hostel, it is 6 PM,” says Tripathi.
In the same breath, he says there is no gender discrimination.
Clearly, the only way he knows to keep the campus safe is to lock the women away first and let the men roam free. If there are no women around, what mischief can the men be up to?
“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.”
Men need no such written applications in BHU, mind you. But of course, there is no gender discrimination on campus! To which VC Tripathi says 'Hold my beer...'
“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?”
Why in their right minds would women need library access past curfew? They have the whole day to study. And now they have WiFi too. Albeit, it was enabled only two weeks ago and the boy's hostels have 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.”
Give them WiFi, keep them in. Safest bet so far.
And what about the fact that there is no non-vegetarian food in girl's hostels, but boy's get it?
“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?”
Your Rs 80 a day allows boy's hostels to serve the residents chicken once a week. The girls will just have to suck it up and be happy with the eggs they get.
So much talk about discrimination, sir. You must say something!
“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.”
Mic drop. Exit stage right, because petrol bombs on the Left.
Definition mein kya rakha hai?
“First of all, it is not an incident of molestation, it is one of eve-teasing,” Tripathi said, speaking about the incident where the female student was attacked by two men on a bike. They tried to put their hands under her clothes. The BHU VC called it “eve-teasing.”
First, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not recognise “eve-teasing” as an offence. The closest definition to what eve teasing is can be put as – “the making of unwanted sexual remarks or advances by a man to a woman in a public place,” and, for the want of other amendments, comes under Section 294 of the IPC –
“Obscene acts and songs.—Whoever, to the annoyance of others —
(a) does any obscene act in any public place, or
(b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.”
Trying to put someone's hands under a woman's clothes in not eve teasing, sir.
Here is what it is – sexual harassment under Section 354A in the IPC –
“physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures”.
This is punishable with “rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”.
'Molestation' can be defined as 'to make annoying sexual advances to, especially, to force physical and usually sexual contact on'.
What happened on the campus was molestation. Which he then accepts:
“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.”
Seriously, Mr Tripathi? We hope Modi gives you that gold star and tells you how great your definitions of university and security on campus are, while students get hit with police lathis and cops enter girl's hostels. And let's hope your curfew-induced security and omelettes in the morning fortify our women and they never feel 'unsafe' again. Ever.
When parents send their daughters to study in universities, little do they know that there are men like you watching over their girls. What option do they have but to ask their daughters to come home and forget about education at the risk of their own safety?