The Banaras Hindu University on Sunday suspended its academic session and advanced its mid-semester break for Dussehra hours after police forces lathi charged protesters, most of them women students sitting on a dharna against the alleged inaction and victim-blaming of a fine arts student who was molested on the campus on Thursday. Several students, journalists covering the protest and policemen were injured in the incident.Later on Sunday, social activists and students demanded action against the policemen and the culprits in the molestation case.The varsity now closes for the break on September 25, three days earlier than the scheduled date of September 28, even as the campus remainstense with heavy deployment of police.The students narrated the sequence of events on Saturday night when policemen ran towards those on dharna with batons and chased them from the main gate of the BHU, the protest site. Several students were injured in the police action, which the victims described as brutal and unprovoked.Aparna Chaubey, a third-year undergraduate student of English literature, received injuries on her back. Ms Chaubey said the police attacked the protestors without any warning, adding that the students were lathi-charged twice.First, a delegation of students who had gathered outside the residence of vice-chancellor G.C. Tripathi were pushed out forcefully by the police, following which the forces attacked the main body of protesters.Ms. Chaubey was among those who had gone to the VC to seek an audience, which had been the main demand of the protesters. “But then he told us he would not meet us as he was hurt that the statue of [BHU founder Madan Mohan] Malviyaji had been smeared with blank paint,” Ms. Chaubey said.The varsity, in an official statement, also mentioned the attempted defacing of the statue, saying it was executed by “anti-national forces”. Students, however, said no such act happened and the rumour was spread by the administration to disrupt the protest. Mineshi Mishra, a psychology undergrad student, says the police chased the women and men students into the women’s hostels, beating them indiscriminately. “There was not a single female constable among them even though the protest was by women. We condemn the police violence. We were sitting on a peaceful dharna, demanding security for female students and better lighting facilities on campus,” Ms. Mishra said.Shivangi Chaubey, another student, said the police was so brutal that when a female student fell outside the gate of the women’s hostel, the police beat her with lathis till she got up on her own and ran inside.BHU chief proctor O.N. Singh denied the lathicharge, saying the police acted in self-defence after the group of protesters, which he claimed was full of outsiders and “anti-social elements pelted stones at the security forces and tried to break into the hostels and the lodge of the VC”.“There was no lathicharge. The protesting crowd had a large number of anti-social and miscreant elements in it and they broke the Triveni Gate and tried to enter forcefully. They pelted stones at the police, who acted in their defence. Some policemen also received injuries,” Mr. Singh said.The central varsity alleged the protest by the girl students was “part of a conspiracy” by “totally politically motivated” social and political activists who were using students as “pawns” to defame the institution,”BHU vice-chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi told The Hindu that the protest was “staged” to stain the Varanasi trip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said the administration was willing to address the “genuine problems” of the students despite the large size of the campus which was open to public use as well but argued that staging a dharna on the street was “not the right way” to communicate.Meanwhile, an FIR was lodged at the Lanka police station against policemen for allegedly assaulting and looting journalists covering the protest and preventing them from visiting the hospital. A case was lodged under Sections 323, 325, 352 and 393 of the Indian Penal Code.A delegation of the UP State accredited correspondents committee apprised Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of the incident after which he instructed the Varanasi divisional commissioner to probe the case. Hemant Tiwari, the president of the UPSACC, visited the four injured Hindi journalists in Varanasi, identified as Alok Pandey, Kaushalendra, Amitesh Srivastava and Arshad Khan.Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav condemned the incident and demanded action against those involved. “The government should use discussion and not force to solve the issue,” he said.Ramayan Patel, convenor of the Joint Action Committee of the BHU students, said the agitation was to demand better security and illuminating all the dark zones in the campus and continuous roundup of guards and installation of CCTV cameras. He also said the students demanded a relaxation of curfew timings for hostels for women, which is at present 8 p.m., and gender sensitisation of administrative staff. Cases of eve-teasing and molestation were common, students said.Meanwhile, a delegations of teachers also took out a candle march in the campus pledging that they would not allow anti-social elements to function in the campus or tolerate any insult to Malviya.U.P. Congress president Raj Babbar and other party leaders were detained by police while they were on the way to BHU.