Some 1,200 students from Banaras Hindu University in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh have been charged with crimes including arson, after a mass protest against the sexual harassment of women turned violent.
The government-funded university is to remain closed while local authorities address the demands set out by the mostly female student body for greater security on campus, following several allegations of assault on campus.
The most recent incident, said to involve a female student being assaulted by men on motorbikes, sparked several days of demonstrations after students said that the university had ignored their complaints.
Footage of women being beaten by police with batons during the clashes went viral, causing national outrage.
An inquiry has been launched into the actions of police at the scene, and two officers have since been suspended. However, some university officials appear to have defended police, claiming that protesting students had attempted to enter the vice-chancellor’s residence, becoming violent when police tried to stop them.
The Indian Express newspaper quoted BHU vice chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi as saying: “Security for boys and girls can never be at par. If we are going to listen to every demand of every girl we won’t be able to run the university. All these rules are for their safety, all in favour of the girl students.”
Further protests are planned in major cities around the country.