The Benaras Hindu University came to a boil during the weekend. A professor who was accused of sexual harassment by 19 women students in October 2018 and found guilty by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) found his way back into the college in August. This caused discomfort and fear among the students provoking them to protest continuously for 27.5 hours to build pressure on the administration to take their decision back. This was despite the fact that the girls who complained against Chaubey have since graduated from the university.

Key Takeaways:

  • College reinstates professor guilty of sexual assault by its ICC in BHU causing protests to erupt in the college. 
  • Students were angry that the university’s executive council revoked SK Chaubey’s suspension and protested till VC Rakesh Bhatnagar agreed to their demands.
  • University VC Rakesh Bhatnagar gives written notice to students stating that the administration has decided to send Chaubey on long leave.
  • Students believe that the mind-set of the university needs to change to understand the women students’ plight instead of moral policing them. 

College reinstates Prof suspended over sexual harassment allegations

Shail Kumar Chaubey, professor of Zoology at BHU, was suspended over charges of sexual harassment in October but he returned to the college as a professor in August after an Executive Council of the university, chaired by Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar reinstated him at his position. After he joined the college again, word quickly spread among students and they decided not to let their efforts that led to his suspension earlier go waste.

Initially, it was the girls who gathered to start the protest on the campuses on Saturday but later even the boys joined in.  The students shared the protest through social media as they uploaded the pictures of it on Facebook. By Sunday morning the crowd grew larger and the students even put up a banner saying #MisogynistVC at the place of protest.

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Students’ demands V/S college

The college VC, who was in Delhi for some work, had to return because of the protest that had erupted in the university. He held a meeting with the student representatives of the protest which concluded with the decision to send Chaubey on long leave. The students demanded that the administration rusticate Chaubey and initiate a legal probe against him. They also demanded the formation of Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), banning of curfew for girls’ hostel in tandem with no curfews in boys’ hostel of BHU, these are the demands that BHU students are fighting for since 2017.

“Just today, one of my female professors was talking to us in the class and despite so much that has already happened; she was still commenting on our clothes and cautioning us to wear modest clothes. She tells us that since we are girls, we need to be cautious and protect ourselves by not wear revealing clothes.”  

The students believe that since students don’t have any representation in the ICC of the college, they are not able to complain against cases as freely as they would if a student is selected in the ICC or a GSCASH is set up in the college, said Akansha Kaushik who studies in final year of BA from BHU and originally belongs to Gorakhpur. “We also want a women grievance cell and strict follow-up of Vishakha guidelines in the university. But they have agreed to three demands of ours. These include the participation of students in the women grievance cell, sending Chaubey on leave and review of the decision made by the Executive Council of the University which sought to reinstate Chaubey despite the ICC report,” she tells SheThePeople.TV.

BHU Students Kicked Sexual Abuser Prof.
BHU students protest against college administration

The ICC in BHU took cognizance of this case in October and investigated it over a period of four months. In February, the committee submitted its report on the case and found him guilty, Priyesh, another BHU student, tells us that in April this year, the Executive Council had a meeting which was chaired by VC Bhatnagar that took the decision of revoking Chaubey’s suspension. “It also decided that Chaubey will not be able to get a promotion to the position of VC and that is a major punishment according to the Executive Council,” says Priyesh.

“When the incident happened, the girls who went on the trip with Chaubey were from the final year of their course. Now this year in August, new batch comes in and Chaubey is back in the campus too,” he added.

BHU administration refuses to mend ways

In October 2018, Chaubey went on an educational trip from the college along with 36 students of final year students of Zoology department including 19 girls to Puri. On the trip, he reportedly passed lewd comments on the girls, did vulgar gestures and even physically assaulted a girl. After coming back from the trip, they filed a complaint which was taken up by the university after the students protested against the professor.

This case happened after huge demonstrations were staged by the university students after a female student complained against another student who allegedly sexually harassed her on the road in 2017. The women’s hostel and college administration were rebuked by people across the country for victim-blaming and moral policing the girl after she complained against the incident. The controversy reached to the extent of removal of the then VC Girish Chandra Tripathi from the university and the appointment of Rakesh Bhatnagar in his place.

However, the way Bhatnagar has reinstated Chaubey after serious and proven sexual assault allegations does not leave much scope for women students of the college to study in a progressive and SH-free institution.

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“While I cannot exactly say that I feel safe on the campus, but it is true that such cases are getting highlighted a lot more than ever before in the University which is evident of the increased conversation around sexual harassment. However, I must say that mainly the administration is at fault here.”

Mindset of administration is a bigger issue than safety

In fact, when asked if students feel safe on the campus, Kaushik states, “While I cannot exactly say that I feel safe on the campus, but it is true that such cases are getting highlighted a lot more than ever before in the University which is evident of the increased conversation around sexual harassment. However, I must say that mainly the administration is at fault here. Just today, one of my female professors was talking to us in the class and despite so much that has already happened; she was still commenting on our clothes and cautioning us to wear modest clothes. She tells us that since we are girls, we need to be cautious and protect ourselves by not wear revealing clothes.”

BHU Students Kicked Sexual Abuser Prof.
BHU students protest against sexual assault guilty professor (Picture from Facebook)

Since she cannot say it directly that she wants to moral police us, she was saying it indirectly that it would be our fault if we do get harassed or assaulted, adds Kaushik about the general mind-set of the college administration.

BHU is increasingly becoming infamous for not being a women-friendly university and this happens after women stood up against the sexual and criminal acts like Bhanwari Devi case, Nirbhaya Gang Rape case and the recent MeToo movement.

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