RSS’ student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s (ABVP) workers assaulted students and a journalist who had gathered in the Banaras Hindu University campus on a day marking the anniversary of last year’s protests on Sunday evening, Scroll reported.
The assault took place after the workers disrupted a street play taking place in memory of the event by barging into the scene and immediately beating up students, including women and hurling abuses. Reportedly, they manhandled an independent journalist from Delhi, Avinash Giri by grabbing him by his color and pushing him around.
A few of the organisers of the event managed to rescue Giri who then immediately ran to a nearby policeman who escorted him to the police station where he stayed in safety for the next few hours.
“Before the attack, an ABVP man came and asked who I was,” Giri said as quoted by Scroll. “I said I was a journalist. He passed a comment saying I had come from Delhi to smear the name of Madan Mohan Malviya, founder of the BHU. But I carried on with my work.”
Soon after, they assaulted him. “I could see blood in their eyes,” Giri said. “They appeared ready to lynch me.”
The ABVP did not deny attacking Giri, but claimed they “did not know he was a journalist”, Scroll reported. “Our activists thought he was someone from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi trying to portray a bad image of the BHU,” said Shashank Singh, an ABVP leader at the university. “Here, we should be given the benefit of the doubt.”
Some of the slogans that the workers yelled after they barged in during the street play were, “Azaadi mangne waalon ko, joote maro saalon ko” (Kick those who demand freedom) and “BHU me rehna hai to Vande Mataram kehna hai” (If you want to be at BHU, you better sing Vande Mataram).
Singh claimed it was not the ABVP that started the violence. “The event’s organisers abused us first and girls used their nails to injure us,” he alleged. “We are always at the forefront to defend women in our society. Having said that, we can’t allow anti-national ideologies to prosper on the BHU campus.”
Reportedly, the security staff of BHU did not do anything to protect the students from the attacks. Instead, they pushed all female students into the Women’s College grounds, and closed the gate, Scroll reported.
A few students had reported minor injuries and lodged a formal complaint against several ABVP workers at the Lanka police station in Varanasi.
“Women were trying to commemorate their last year’s protest but a group of men did not want the celebration to take place,” said Bharat Bhushan Tiwari, head of the Lanka police station as quoted by Scroll. “The women have accused the men of violence and abuse. We have registered an FIR and will act accordingly.”
As for Giri, the police official said the journalist was “mildly attacked”. “We have received an application from him and we will file a case based on it,” he added.
Earlier, in 2017, a visual arts student was sexually harassed at the University after which she complained to the security staff. The staff asked her to keep quiet as Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was visiting the next day. This led to protests by female students who demanded justice and suspension of the security staff.
The administration dismissed the protests, which then later grew and drew attention from Indian media. The police used lathicharge and teargas to break the crowd.
Avantika Tiwari, an undergraduate at the Women’s College, said the students, especially women, thought that they had “achieved many things” through last year’s protests, Scroll reported. “But seeing this behaviour of ABVP men, I can say we were wrong,” she rued. “The campus is still unsafe for women.”