Varanasi, Sep 15: Over 50 students of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) are continuing a sit-in protest demanding the sacking of a professor who allegedly made obscene gestures and vulgar comments during an academic trip to Odisha last year.
The protest erupted late Saturday night more than a month after the university’s executive council reinstated the professor after an eight-month suspension.
The students had alleged that zoology professor Shail Kumar Chaube of making obscene gestures and passing vulgar comments during an academic tour in October last year. Chaube was reinstated in service by the university’s executive council, led by BHU’s VC Rakesh Bhatnagar. The EC revoked Chaube’s suspension in June despite the recommendations for strict action by the university’s Complaints Committee (ICC) which probed the allegations.
The first protest again Chaube began in October after the students returned from the tour of Odisha. The students had filed a complaint with university’s women’s grievance cell and also submitted the complaint to BHU vice-chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar.
“Prof Chaube took us to the Nandankanan Zoological Park and then to the Konark Sun Temple. During the visit to the temple, he made obscene gestures and passed vulgar comments while explaining about the idols there,” the girls wrote in their complaint to the V-C.
After receiving the complaint, the V-C ordered an internal probe into the incident and suspended Chaube on October 24. The V-C also ordered a probe by the Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) of the varsity.
Chaube claims he is innocent. “All allegations against me are false. These charges were levelled by a few people envious of my progress. Along with me, three other professors, two lab attendants and a guardian also accompanied the students during the tour. I only delivered my duty as a teacher and a guardian of the students, to ensure the success of the academic tour.”
According to a senior official of the varsity, the allegations against Chaube were investigated by the ICC for 40 days. “The committee spoke to all the students who filed the complaint, eye witnesses and some others. The committee also spoke to the accused professor. On the basis of all the statements, the committee found allegations against Chaube to be true,” he said. The committee had recommended strict action against Chaube in a report submitted to the varsity administration in December 2018.
The report, which found Chaube guilty of the accusations leveled by the students, was tabled before the EC twice, first in January this year but did not get any response from the EC. The report was tabled again before the executive council chaired by the V-C in its meeting held in June.
However, after censuring the professor, the executive council revoked the suspension order and reinstated Chaube in the zoology department. He joined duty in July.
The university’s decision to reinstate Chaube has outraged the students who has termed it as a soft response when he should have been sacked..
However, the V-C has denied allegations that the accused has been let off with ‘light punishment and said that the he was a strict one which will impact Chaube’s service record. “Strict action has been taken against Professor Chaube. He has been censured and this action has been included in his service record. He has also been given a strict warning,” the V-C said.
“After this action, Prof Chaube will never be able to hold any administrative position in any institution. He will also never be given the responsibility of academic tours,” Bhatnagar said. The students have also demanded that the V-C should hold a dialogue with them. The BHU’s spokesperson also echoed the V-C’s stand that strict action has been taken. “The executive council of the varsity has given a strict punishment to Prof Chaube and he will not be able to hold any administrative position in future,” PRO Dr Rajesh Singh said. The university’s Neeraj Chauhan has said that the matter is expected to be tabled again before the EC after holding a discussion with V-C.