New Delhi: Soon after Banaras Hindu University (BHU) vice chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi was criticised for his stance on student protests on campus, he has reportedly pushed through a host of faculty appointments before his retirement – including a hospital head indicted for sexual harassment.
According to a report in the Indian Express, Tripathi retires on November 27. As per central government rules, university heads cannot make appointments in the last two months of their tenure, which for Tripathi starts today (September 27). However, the newspaper reported, in an Executive Council (EC) meeting held in the university on Tuesday (September 26), Tripathi pushed for several faculty appointments.
The appointment that met the most resistance from other members of the EC was that of O.P. Upadhyay as medical superintendent of Sir Sunderlal Hospital, which is within the BHU campus. Upadhyay, one of the EC members reportedly pointed out, was convicted in a sexual harassment case by a magistrate’s court in Fiji.
It is not clear yet whether Upadhyay’s appointment was finalised. “It will only be clear once the minutes of the meeting are circulated,” an EC member told Indian Express. As the highest decision-making body in the university, the EC has to clear all appointments made by selection committees of various departments. The VC heads both the EC and all selection committees.
Upadhyay has been the acting medical superintendent of Sir Sunderlal Hospital since April 2016, Indian Express reported, and the VC was pushing to “regularise” his appointment. In 2013, a magistrate’s court in Nasinu, Fiji found him guilty of sexually harassing a 21-year-old woman.
When contacted by the newspaper, Tripathi said, “Yes there was such a proposal and I recall there were objections (in the meeting). But since there is a matter regarding this pending in the (Allahabad) high court, we will have to wait for the court’s verdict.”
Upadhya, however, told Indian Express that the university would not take into account the Fiji court’s decision. “The university had taken legal opinion in my matter and it was decided that the decision of a court abroad does not hold good in our country. Hence, I was interviewed and selected by selection committee. I was on study leave (in Fiji), it was a case of extortion and because I resisted it, I was falsely accused.”
This discussion in the EC comes at a time when students at BHU have been protesting the university administration’s reaction to a molestation complaint. Instead of investigating the incident, the first-year student who complained has alleged that the chief proctor and her hostel warden started asking question like why she was out so late (at around 6 pm). When large-scale protests erupted, the police lathi charged the students, injuring several including two journalists. The university has also filed an FIR against 1,000 students for ‘arson’ during the protest.
Tripathi, meanwhile, claimed that the protested was “created by outsiders” with “vested interests”, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting Varanasi that day. “They are those who are not committed to the nation but work only for their individual selves. They don’t care about the nation or its institutions. Unke liye niji hit hi sab kuch hai. Prime minister aane waale the, isiliye mujhe lagta hai yeh sab kuch karaya gaya tha (For them, personal benefit is everything. The prime minister was to visit and that’s why, I feel, all this was done). The molestation was done to trigger this fiasco is what I feel,” he said.