Monday, October 2, 2017

Police issue summons to 14 BHU students

The Uttar Pradesh police have issued summons to more than a dozen students of the Banaras Hindu University involved in last week's protests, citing various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including attempt to murder.

The police notice follows the FIR registered against 1,000 unknown BHU students on allegations of arson during the recent protests by students over a molestation case in the central varsity campus.

An FIR had been lodged at the Lanka police station in Varanasi under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 148(rioting with armed weapon), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of duties), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 436  (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house).

 Banaras Hindu University students stage a protest in New Delhi.
Banaras Hindu University on the boil

Superintendent of Police, Crime, Varanasi, Gyanendra Nath Prasad said notices have been issued to 14 students. Those identified will have to appear before the police crime branch, which is probing the case, by the end of Monday and record their statements as well as produce any written records related to the case. "Your absence will be understood to mean that you have nothing to say on it," read one of the notices, adding that legal action would be then initiated based on "available evidence."

Mr. Prasad said the 14 students were identified and issued notices after considering their "past controversies"on campus, involvement in controversial events and based on intelligence inputs. "The boys have been under the radar of suspicion," Mr. Prasad told The Hindu.

The police officer said the students were being summoned only for questioning.

Who will be named in the case as accused and what sections would be invoked, will be decided only on the basis of evidence, he added.

The students, however, accused the administration of targetting them in the case. Roshan Pandey, a third-year Arts students, was among the protestors who received a notice.  Mr. Pandey said he was being targeted for his "democratic" activism on campus on issues related to women safety, equality and rights.

"We were out demanding a safe and peaceful campus, and they responded to it by throwing this notice at us. We have raised these issues in the past as well and the BHU administration has responded by trying to implicate us in criminal cases and suppress our democratic voices," Mr. Pandey said.

The student was among those who had filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding gender equality on the campus. "We believe in protesting peacefully and condemn any form of violence," he said.

The police said notices would be issued to more students in the coming days. Meanwhile, the police is yet to find any leads in the molestation case of the fine arts student, which had trigerred the outrage and protests culminating in a lathicharge and allegations of arson.

A team of the UP police crime branch has left for New Delhi, as officers try to make a sketch of the accused men based on the memory of the molestation victim.

"Based on the sketch and other inputs, we will try to trace them. So far, there have been no clues," Mr. Prasad said.

Dhananjay Tripathi, an Ayurveda Ph.D scholar of BHU, who has also been issued a notice, described the police action as arbitrary. In addition to the criminals cases, he was also summoned under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, which he claims could be due to his writings and posts on the BHU issue on social media.

"I don't run any page for BHU on Facebook except my own profile. I have been active on campus raising several civil society issues since 2002 but don't have a single case against me,' said Mr. Tripathi, who is a member of the NSUI, the students wing of the Congress.

Among the 14 students, as many as seven are involved with the Joint Action Committee of students, a platform of student outfits, including the NSUI, AISA and other non-ABVP bodies, Mr.Tripathi said.

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