The Banaras Hindu University, one of the oldest institutes of higher education in the country, is up in arms. On Thursday, a female student was molested inside the campus by three men. Even as the woman cried out for help, a security guard standing nearby did not budge. When the traumatised woman got back to the hostel and complained about her molestation to the warden, she got blamed instead for being out “so late”. This is only the latest in a serious of molestation incidents on the campus with female students attesting that such incidents are common with the administration turning a blind eye to them.
If this was not bad enough, the Uttar Pradesh administration’s response made it even more so. The state government posted hundreds of policemen on campus with even the Provincial Armed Constabulary – an anti-riot force – being amongst them. These policemen then proceeded to assault female protestors with batons.
In this incredible situation at one of the country’s most premier institutions, the local Hindi press took a stand that took some pressure of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh.
Many Hindi newspapers, for example, blamed the female protestors for staring the violence. This, of course, justifies the police assault. The Navbharat Times on Monday wrote: “Protesting against molestation for two days at the Singhdwar gate, the agitation by female students turned violent on Saturday.”
The Dainik Jagran followed a similar template. Its lead story on Monday did not trace the issue back to the baton charge by the police. Instead, it spoke of “repeated clashes between students and security forces”. Hindustan was the most hawkish here, calling the students’ protests against the lack of women’s safety on campus a “hinsak updrav”, violent disturbance.
However, there were also reports that blamed the administration for unleashing a police assault on protesting students. The Dainik Bhaskar, for example, traced the violence back to the police. “When the female students took out a peace march, the police stopped them by using a lathicharge,” read a report on the front page of the newspaper on Monday. The Jansatta was even more direct. On Monday, it ran with this headline on its front page: “Lathicharge on female students at BHU”.
Some newspapers also took care to point out the steps the administration was taking to fix the situation – without telling us how they broke in the first place. On Monday, a Navbharat Times headline read: “Administration has issues orders to ensure security for female students”. Dainik Jagran’s Monday front page told us that the Uttar Pradesh CM had ordered a probe into the matter.
The Navbharat Times had a report quoting anonymous sources that said that the Prime Minister himself considered the matter “serious”. Hindustan had a similar report too, which said that the Prime Minister’s Office was taking the matter seriously.
This softness, however, was completely overturned in the online media, which was rather harsh on both the university as well as the BJP administration. The Lallantop attacked the Vice Chancellor. “For three days the VC kept quiet, and now when he speaks he speaks nonsense,” read one strong headline on Sunday. On Monday, another Lallantop article sharply criticised the fact that cases were filed on the female students. News18 Hindi was also clear that the police has assaulted peaceful students. On Sunday, its report read: “The police used force to clear the protesting students.”