An inquiry has been ordered into the violence in Banaras Hindu University last week, the vice chancellor and the Uttar Pradesh government said. Several students, including women, and two journalists were injured in a lathi-charge by police inside the university during a protest following a woman student’s complaint that she was harassed. While BHU Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi said he had ordered an inquiry headed by a retired high court judge, state government spokesperson and minister Srikant Sharma maintained it was a magisterial probe. It was not clear whether there was one inquiry or two. “I have ordered an inquiry into the incident. Retired Allahabad High Court judge B S Dixit will head the panel,” Tripathi told PTI in the national capital.
However, Sharma said, “The BHU authorities have ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incidents.” Earlier, speaking to mediapersons after a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow, he had said a “judicial inquiry” had been ordered. “By mistake, I had said earlier that it will be a judicial inquiry. It is in fact a magisterial inquiry,” Sharma clarified later. He also said the government had on its part ordered a separate probe by the Varanasi commissioner and the ADG (additional director general) police. Tripathi, who was in the national capital today for the university’s executive council meeting, said the violence was fanned by “rumour mongering” and “outsiders”. He claimed the council’s meeting was scheduled long back and the violence did not figure on its agenda. He also brushed aside allegations of gender bias in the central university, suggesting the perception may have to do with the fact that authorities were “more concerned” about the security of women than men.
Tripathi said he had been keeping Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar updated on the issue from the very beginning. “We have the footage in which outsiders can be clearly seen at the protest. Rumour mongering escalated the protests. Rumours were spread that girls have been asked to vacate the hostels and those who were not involved in the protests also joined it,” he said.
The trigger was a woman student of the Arts faculty alleging harassment by three men on a motorcycle inside the campus while she was returning to her hostel. The violence erupted after some students, protesting against the incident on Thursday, wanted to meet the vice chancellor at his residence. As opposition parties targeted the BJP over the police action on the campus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah yesterday spoke to Adityanath and asked him to address the issue at the earliest.
Sharma said the chief minister had taken the matter “very seriously”. He accused the opposition parties of trying to vitiate the academic atmosphere. “If they wish to do politics, they should do it with us and not with students. They should keep away from holding agitations in campuses,” he said. Referring to the lathi-charge on women students sitting on dharna, he said, “We are identifying those outsiders who are using the students to do politics and also identifying those who indulged in lathi-charge.”
Sharma said the government had asked the local administration to strengthen security on the campus. “It has been decided to install CCTV on the campus,” he added.