Banaras Hindu University might now have a woman proctor to calm the storm that swept the university when a a visual arts student was allegedly harassed by men on a motorcycle while returning to her hostel, but with each day, it is becoming clear that it’s going to take a lot more than a woman appointee to fix the gender discrimination problem at hand.
In a startling display of his inability to even now understand what the female students on the BHU campus are so vociferously fighting for, vice-chancellor GC Tripathi made yet another attempt to blame, shame and berate the protesting women.
On Wednesday, 27 September, Tripathi met with a group of girls from the hostel in BHU’s Triveni complex to address their grievances, and ended up lecturing them on the importance of dharma, modesty and virtue.
In a video that is now making the rounds of social media, Tripathi is seen sharing his thoughts on how women should behave.
Among the many gems from the video, here are a few:
“Nobody wants to accept their own mistake. Why didn’t you counsel the girl who was lathi-charged?”
“Have such incidents happened in the past? I have come to the hostel many times, has anyone ever complained before?”
Tripathi is also seen claiming that the night of the lathi-charge, which is what catapulted the incident to a matter of national outrage, he himself came down to the hostel to meet them. When the student he is berating contradicts him and says that in fact students came to meet him at his residence, Tripathi brushed the claim aside.
On being lectured for behaving irresponsibly, the student then asks Tripathi if he felt he had discharged his duties well that night when he allowed the girls to be lathi-charged. To this, he brazenly retorts, “Only those who have performed their own duty well have a right to talk about ‘dharma’. Did you follow your duty when you sold the victim’s modesty in the market?”
According to Tripathi, women protesting for their right to feel safe on the grounds of their own university is akin to selling their modesty in the market. It is no wonder then, that last year, he made women students sign affidavits that they would not indulge in protests or agitations of any kind in the university. For a man who is now claiming that female students on campus have had no cause for complain under his administration, he seems to have gone to severe lengths to curtail their right and freedom to protest.
He also seems to have conveniently forgotten that the problem of sexual harassment has reached such proportions in BHU that is has acquired a moniker of its own: ‘lanketing‘.
Tripathi concluded the ‘conversation’ by telling the women that they were like daughters to him, which basically vindicated him for opinions diminishing their agency.
Tripathi’s assertions take on an ironical, if not comical, turn considering that just a day after he reprimanded women students for exaggerating the severity of how badly they were treated, nine students from BHU (8 boys and one girl) were detained by the Delhi police when they tried to meet the prime minister in Delhi. In their complaint against the police, the girl student who was detained alleged that the police threatened them saying, “We are not going to encounter you. We will just drop you off Delhi, just like Teesta Setalwad.”
Tripathi might be stubbornly inhabiting an alternative reality now, but the man who claimed that the 21 September incident was a one-off exception, not the norm at the university, and that the girls had never complained of such incidents in the past, had, just three days ago, contended that security of women could never be at par with the security of men.
“If we are going to listen to every demand of every girl we won’t be able to run the university,” he had said, while defending campus rules that blatantly discriminated against male and female students. “All these rules are for their safety, all in favour of the girl students,” he said.
In the face of nation-wide backlash from all parts of country, Tripathi may have accepted the students’ demands for round-the-clock security, CCTV monitoring, proper checking at the gates, and recruitment of women security guards, but such measures will be of little help in the face of misogyny so deep-rooted that the people in power can still, undeterred and with utmost conviction, continue to blame women for complaining instead of fixing the many problems that necessitated furious protests in the first place.
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