Think Before Your Kashiyatra? BHU and the Death of a University

Is the BHU debacle symptomatic of a larger depoliticisation and anaesthetisation process across Indian campuses?

3 min read
Central Library, Benares Hindu University (BHU). (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

‘Kashiyatra, KY dude – be there, or be squared.’ This, or something similar was thrown our way by a rather unassuming, backpack carrying, pony tail wearing man. “He’s quite in on the fest circuit,” someone else informed as we tried to assimilate what had just transpired. A few friends and I were checking out a poster for a college fest. It was early 2006, and I had just began my undergraduate course.

IIT Varanasi’s (BHU) KY was apparently the name to reckon with when it came to college fests in India. Malhar at Xavier’s Mumbai was the other biggie. I never got to got to KY, but the name stuck with me. After all it worked perfectly – the reference to the ubiquitous Kashiyatra, a Hindu pilgrimage, the journey undertaken to seek ‘moksha’.

The ‘Right’ Path

But the pursuit of an educational moksha seems to have taken a backseat at BHU.

Apparently, notes of discord started being scripted with the appointment of Girish Chandra Tripathi as the Vice Chancellor of the University, after the Narendra Modi government came to power. Tripathi is known for his candid association with the RSS and has openly advocated in favour of the Sangh.

Just a couple of days ago, #SaveBHUfromRSS started trending on Twitter. A host of allegations have been levelled against the university administration, one of which is the way in which the university space is being made inhospitable for women students.

A University of Exceptional Rules

The university abruptly terminated the contract of visiting professor and Magsaysay award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey on 2 January 2016, which was to end in July.

There was no specific reason given for this move. There allegations and complaints that Pandey was spreading and encouraging anti-national and Naxalite sentiments on campus.

A few students later spoke with Khabar Lahariya anonymously that none of the students who Dr Pandey taught or interacted with registered a complaint. In a series of inconsequential and completely disconnected set of incidents, a number of students were targetted and implicated.

Tripathi has upheld RSS principles and has sought to strictly put in regulations according to them in the university.

Needless to say, female students have been the most affected. Reports have done rounds that the college administration has banned the use of mobile phones by girls after 10pm. The VC has also asked girls to not study after 10pm, as girls who do so are immoral. As a consequence, the 24×7 library on campus has been shut down for girl students at night.

The BHU prospectus states that bus service can be availed by all the students of the university, although, it has come to light that the female students have been banned from using it. Female students have also been made to sign bonds stating that they would not participate or indulge in any protest or agitation.

The Death of Tolerance?

Women are not allowed to eat meat in the hostels. Mr Tripathi believes that eating non-veg food makes women “impure”, in accordance with Madan Mohan Malviya’s (founder) rules.

There is no cap on the time men can return to campus, but women have been asked to come back by 8pm. Dress codes have also been instituted for women.

Gender segregation is another bane. The university has repeatedly warned the students boys and girls hanging out together will lead to a “category-A punishment”, amounting to even suspension.

A few months ago, the university administration turned down the students’ demand for a cyber library. The reason? Well, it was assumed that all students will only use the library to watch porn.

A Joint Action Committee (JAC) has been formed by the students who have begun a protracted movement to end autocracy on their campus. Though it will be winter soon, one hopes a democratic spring arrives soon at BHU.

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