We’ve seen this drill before. Female student gets molested on campus, decides to raise her voice, madness ensues, the blame games begin, and everything happens except for the survivor getting justice. In 2016, Jadavpur University in Kolkata made headlines for a sexual harassment case on campus when a female student was allegedly molested by a senior professor’s son.
Now, as we watch the events surrounding the alleged molestation of a female student at Banaras Hindu University unfold, a familiar feeling of nausea overtakes us. In less than a week after the 21-year-old was allegedly groped on campus by two men on a bike, the chain of events have amplified everything but the survivor’s quest for justice. Massive protests against the management have taken place on campus ever since.
BHU has tried multiple tactics to wash its hands clean off the issue, and we get the feeling the authorities are starting to feel pretty good about their work so far. There are valuable lessons for all of us here in how adarniya institutions in India would like women to handle any sexual assault: Be a good girl, shut up and bear everything in silence – but that’s only the beginning. Here’s a handy guide to handling sexual assault, BHU-style.
1. Embrace the victim-shaming life
It’s your own fault for being molested, of course. Who else is to be blamed? After being groped, the student, along with her friends, went to a security guard for help. But instead of addressing her condition, the first thing he did was ask the girls what they were doing outside the campus after 6 pm. Subsequently their hostel warden also questioned the survivor for wandering in the evening.
2. Apologise for having a vagina
One report on the sexist rules at BHU to keep its female students “under control” showed that the university gave female students only restricted access to the library, morally policed them on their clothes and strictly monitored their timings. Any complaint against the administration could apparently get them suspended. Which makes us think that the only way to find closure is to apologise for having lady parts. And even that may not be enough.
3. Wait for the institution’s male leader to make this about him
Instead of taking responsibility for handling the situation badly, BHU Vice-Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi has said that the molestation incident was nothing but “simple eve-teasing” and that this is a conspiracy by “outside groups” against him. He claimed that the protestors could not tolerate his own “honest” way of working and that the incident was used against him. Yes Mr VC, a girl being molested under your watch is all about you because you didn’t ensure safety for women in the campus. The trauma, however, is all hers.
4. Then wait for Subramanian Swamy to call you a Naxal
Whenever there’s crime against women, how far can political dudebro and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy be? Swamy supported the BHU management saying that the entire incident looked like “Naxal activity” to him. Facts be damned when naysayer Swamy is here. By the way, is this all that it takes to become a Naxal these days?
5. Watch Rahul Gandhi make a meme out of himself, yet again
After embracing the eventual politicisation of this case, wait for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to say something about the issue, only to watch him become the next meme himself. Gandhi jumping the gun to blame Modi for ‘letting’ the molestation happen in his constituency and demanded that the PM apologise for the situation. Holding the Prime Minister accountable for an escalating situation is one thing, but to try to bash the BJP by calling the incident “BJP’s version of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao in BHU” is a ridiculous sideshow.
6. Endure some lathis for building moral character
The women protesting against the administration have been putting up a brave fight. But lathi-charging is just about the only way the police can think of controlling the crowd, amid reports about how several students and two journalists were injured. Enduring violence and injury are your homework for fighting the system. After being let down by their educational institution, getting bullied by the police sends a clear message — keep your head down and stay quiet.
7. Pray at the altar of a joint action committee
A committee headed by the BHU chief secretary has been formed to probe into the issue, and so now your best bet is to pray at its altar. The committee has demanded the suspension of District Magistrate, Senior Superintendent of Police of Varanasi and “strict legal action against the culprits.” It has also demanded the suspension of Tripathi. All these potential suspensions might give an impression of action, but the real problem remains — girls on campus are treated as inferior to boys, and there’s still no system in place to morally educate men on code of conduct and consent.
8. Celebrate new security measures that will restrict your freedoms some more
Remember when a child was recently murdered in Gurgaon’s Ryan International school? The school reopened to heightened security measures, from segregated toilets to CCTVs to female staff in every bathroom to female bus drivers. Similarly, BHU is all set to employ an all-female squad of security personnel. Twenty-five female guards will be stationed on campus to protect female students. The new security will also include getting CCTVs installed in all parts of campus to keep an eye on sexual harassment. How long till the CCTVs are used to further police women’s freedom in the campus? Old habits die hard, after all. And by relying on female security, BHU is sending a clear message — it won’t hold men accountable on how to behave, but will instead further police women.
9. Keep calm about a random resignation and carry on
A government report blamed the university for handling the crisis with insensitivity. After which, Professor ON Singh, Chief Proctor of BHU, resigned from his position citing “moral grounds”. To hell with dismantling a patriarchal mindset in our education system. Somebody resigned. Hurrah! Crisis averted. Cry into your books in gratitude, ladies. A resignation solves everything. No more molestation. Men are decent again.
Co-published with Firstpost.