Fear stalks women in student hub

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Bangalore, September 17: “I would never go out alone after 9 p.m. There are so many instances of sexual harassment, and anti-social elements lurk just outside the campus gates,” said Swathi Kumar (name changed), a fourth-year student in the premier National Law School of India University (NSLIU), Nagarabhavi.

Almost a year after the gruesome gang-rape of a student on the vast Jnana Bharathi (JB) campus of Bangalore University (BU) sent shockwaves among the student community, resulting in a ‘beefing up of security measures’, not much appears to have changed. Fear, it seems, is a steady companion for students in institutions around the area.

“Yes, a curfew was imposed on us, which was later relaxed. There is no avoiding going out in the evening for practical necessities such as buying food. But the lighting remains poor. There are so many wine shops near JB main road and people from there often make their way to this area,” Ms. Kumar added.

It is not just the female students who are apprehensive. Suprajit Singh (name changed), Ms. Kumar’s classmate, said: “Shutting gates is not the answer. To begin with, most parts of the campus have no network coverage. Even if someone wants to make a distress call, there is no option. Most autorickshaw drivers are uncooperative, so we cannot depend on them. But there is only one new bus that brings us directly to campus.”

This is a general concern among the large student community studying in various institutions in and around Nagarabhavi. While security is ensured within the campus, right outside the gates is where the danger lies.

For students studying in BU, which is spread over 1,000 acres with no marked boundary walls protecting any of the buildings, negotiating the long stretches between departments is a risky affair.

What makes it difficult for policing within the campus is the unrestricted entry for the public within the JB campus.

Previous proposals from BU made to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike to limit access to the JB campus roads to BU staff and students received flak from the public as they will be forced to use a circuitous route otherwise.

An NLSIU proposal to put a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on entry and exit for its students was faced with stiff opposition, forcing the authorities to withdraw it. There is now a 10 p.m. exit deadline.

BU steps up security
The only option left for BU authorities, who have the onus of protecting not just their own students but also those from NLSIU, is to strengthen the existing security and fence BU’s buildings. Vice-Chancellor B. Thimme Gowda said regular checks were in place on campus and police patrolling had been increased.

“Compound walls are being built around the hostels and lighting is being increased throughout. Soon after the construction of walls is completed, we will be installing CCTV cameras. We are also contemplating putting up barbed wires on either side of the road,” he added.

A Sensitisation, Prevention and Redressal of Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination (SPARSH and GD) policy has also been unveiled by the varsity.

According to the policy, an internal committee will directly address problems of the victims (student or employee) and promises action within 30 days from the day of the complaint against the guilty.

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