Civil society members on Sunday issued a public statement condemning the police action on students protesting against an incident of molestation at the Banaras Hindu University. The statement, addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, demanded immediate action against the police for suppressing the protests.

The statement accused the police of dragging women students out of their hostels and assaulting them. It said the police used tear gas and rubber bullets on unarmed student protestors, and did not spare even those who were on a hunger strike.

The statement condemned Banaras Hindu University Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi for “forcibly shutting down girls’ hostels till October 2 and “literally throwing the girls out”. The statement alleged that this was a complete failure on part of the vice chancellor and the university administration to “protect the students and their right to free speech”.

“The administration has miserably failed to respond institutionally to an incident as grave as sexual harassment,” the statement read. “Instead it has responded by unleashing violence on peaceful and non-violent protestors and choosing to crush the constitutional rights of students of free speech and expression.”

Fresh violence, more protests planned

Fresh violence broke out at Banaras Hindu University on Sunday afternoon when girls from Birla Hostel took out a march. The police reportedly baton-charged them again, and detained 37 students, a postgraduate final-year student told

Earlier on Sunday, the university’s vice-chancellor had blamed “anti-social elements” from outside the college for the protests. The chief proctor too had denied that the police baton-charged the protesting students.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Sunday sought a comprehensive report from the Varanasi commissioner of police about the incident.

At another protest site, the police detained Congress leaders PL Punia, Raj Babbar and Ajai Rai, ANI reported. The youth wing of the Congress, National Students Union of India, also held protests in New Delhi on Sunday.

Autonomous women’s collective Pinjra Tod has announced a protest outside Uttar Pradesh Bhavan in Varanasi at 12.30 pm on Monday. There will also be protests at Jantar Mantar and at Aligarh Muslim University.