VARANASI: The Centre is scrambling to contain the situation in Varanasi when Banaras Hindu University re-opens after the short Dussehra break on October 3. Anger over the police attack on the students, particularly the girls, has spread across Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency with the opposition, activists and civil society coming together to plan for a major agitation and a shut down as soon as BHU resumes classes.

Sources said that talks are on for a bandh all across Varanasi with the business community and traders associations being contacted. “There will be a big agitation now unless the government takes proper action,” the sources said confirming plans for a bandh and a major agitation in support of the students.

After the transfer of a few district officials and police officers, BHU’s Chief Proctor Chief Proctor ON Singh has resigned owning ‘moral responsibility.’ He is one of the two BHU officials, the other being the Dean of Students, who had failed to register the girls complaint of molestation and instead ‘shamed’ her for staying out late. Significantly the resignation has been accepted by Vice Chancellor G.C.Tripathi, a RSS member, who has clearly survived after his visit to Delhi with Singh becoming the scapegoat for this incident.

The government now seems to have closed ranks around Tripathi with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath coming out in support of the VC’s initial argument that the entire incident smacked off a “conspiracy”. The VC had dismissed the incident as just ‘eve teasing’ and not molestation despite the student's statement that she was pulled, groped and molested and the motorcycle riders then sped off after she fell.

“The report (on BHU incidents) has been received and administration has been clearly told not to harass any student but get to the bottom of this issue and find details of anti-social elements who vitiated the atmosphere (in the university) in the garb of students,” he said.

The girl students who joined the protest are not political, and have been facing continuous sexual harassment for at least three years outside the girls college that has two hostels, and the nearby road where many of the girl students live outside BHU. Street lights are broken by the lumpens, who then attack the girls with the incidents being known and no action taken. The girls have been asking for women patrols in the area, street lighting. CCTV cameras, and parity with the male hostels for a while now.

After this incident the BHU girl students, all aggrieved and angered over the years, joined in demanding as a former BHU Professor said, “basic demands that could have easily been accepted by the VC and the situation diffused.” However, Tripathi refused to come outside the gates to meet the students and the brutal attack by the police has aggravated the situation to a point where the students now are on the warpath with Varanasi city planning to join them.

Various enquiries including that by a judicial magistrate are on. However, there has been no assurance from either Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was visiting Varanasi on the day of the protest, or the Chief Minister that action will be taken against the boys, and the police taken to task along with the VC for the brutal attack. There has not been a word from the VC about accepting the students demands, and ensuring remedial action. Instead the focus seems to be on unveiling what the BJP top brass see as a “conspiracy” insisting till date that even the protests were engineered.

The BHU students are in Delhi on the invitation of the student community here. The girl students are from small towns, who have fought prejudice and family objections to pursue their studies as hostellers. Their determination to continue their education despite the odds is visible, as is their courage now to take on the administration so that the environment for girls in BHU improves to a point where they are given parity with the boys.