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Authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have ordered an inquiry after police beat female university students protesting against an alleged sexual assault. Outrage grew after video footage of the beating at the leading Banaras Hindu University (BHU) went viral.

Two policemen have now been suspended over the incident. The women’s hostel at BHU has shut early for holidays. Police say they were forced to act after students turned violent.

India is often in the news for the wrong reasons when it comes to the affairs of women. India has often been branded as the rape capital of the world, a title which was hurled towards India by its neighbor Pakistan in the UNGA yesterday.  It has been termed as the “World’s fourth worst place for a woman” in a Reuters report.

In a related incident, a two-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court awarded bail to three law students from the elite Jindal Global Law School who had been convicted by a lower court in March for blackmailing and gang-raping a fellow student. The court labeled the victim as “promiscuous”. The young woman was castigated for drinking beer, smoking, taking drugs, keeping condoms in her room and not confiding in her parents that she was being abused.

Read more: Hindu nationalists claim that the Taj Mahal was originally a ‘temple’!

India is often in the news for the wrong reasons when it comes to the affairs of women. The country has been branded as the rape capital of the world, a title which was hurled towards India by its neighbor Pakistan in the UNGA 2017 session.  In a Reuters report, it was termed as the “World’s fourth worst place for a woman”.

Atrocities against women have been on the rise in India over the past couple decades. Sexual harassment is a daily occurrence in the lives of common women. Therefore, women empowerment is something that all Indian government’s claim they want. However, promising is one thing and fulfilling is quite another.

Meanwhile, the girl students protesting the sexual harassment of a female student were labeled as  “anti-national” forces, and their protest is the “work of propagandists” who are “completely political” and targeting the prime minister. These labels were affixed by none other than the BHU Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi.

The current regime of Narender Modi seems to be no different. In fact, the BHU is situated in the constituency of Modi himself. Yet the reaction of Modi is telling. In a recent visit to his constituency, India’s Prime Minister had his route through the town changed so he did not have to pass the university gate and come face to face with these young women. He spent the time inaugurating cow health camps and sewage pits as if nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, the girl students protesting the sexual harassment of a female student were labeled as “anti-national” forces, and their protest is the “work of propagandists” who are “completely political” and targeting the prime minister. These labels were affixed by none other than the BHU Vice Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi.

The BHU Vice-Chancellor was appointed in 2015 in a controversial move that raised many questions. Tripathi is well known for his links to the Hindutva group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which the ruling BJP is a political wing, and his appointment is alleged to be a part of a concentrated campaign of “saffronization” of Indian educational institutions. This campaign came to light during the JNU protests of 2016.

Read more: Not in my name protests: evolution in the anti-Hindutva struggle

In BHU, the university extended the functioning hours of the library to 15 hours. Female Students had to reach their hostel before 8pm, otherwise, they would be suspended. They could not wear skirts and short clothes. The cafetaria in the girls’ hostel does not cook non-veg food. If the hostel warden or hostel coordinator finds a girl using her mobile phone after 10pm, their parents are notified and told these girls are bringing ‘shame’ to the family name. Many have likened these rules only for girls as turning a university into an RSS branch.

This foray into institution administration marks a new phase in the RSS expansion. Having been shunned for the first four decades of modern India’s history, it has now embarked on a path of resurgence. Its hold onto politics through the BJP. This has allowed it to continue with its agenda of dominating the social, cultural and economic life of India unhindered and unimpeded. This is a worrying development, not only for India’s future as a pluralistic country but the stability of the whole region as well.

Women too are now in the crosshairs of Hindutva. Like all other religious extremists, Hindutva activists claim to be the only true representatives of their religion and thus they define parameters of all adherents including women. Career seeking women are frowned upon, indeed subject to vituperation as unworthy of being good mothers and wives.

The rise of the BJP since 1990 has exposed the schism in India between Hindutva and those that it deems as “unsuitable”. This ranges from minorities outside the fold of Hinduism as well as groups within Hinduism itself. The RSS, which is the parent organization of the BJP, has pursued an unrelenting agenda of turning modern India into a Hindu theocratic state since its independence and has actually built the tools required to achieve its aims through its extended family the Sangh Parivar.

Read more: A tale of terror: BJP worker fakes bombing of own home

Women too are now in the crosshairs of Hindutva. Like all other religious extremists, Hindutva activists claim to be the only true representatives of their religion and thus they define parameters of all adherents including women. Career seeking women are frowned upon, indeed subject to vituperation as unworthy of being good mothers and wives. Hindu women are expected to be docile to their husbands and cater to their whims and fancies. In a statement the RSS chief stated that the duty of the woman is to look after her husband, failing which he can disown her and refuse to take care of her.

For Hindutva, empowered females like the girl students protesting for their rights against patriarchy are anathema. This is why the Hindutva government is using myriad ways to stifle and silence dissent by women against its policies and the order it is shaping inside India.

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