On 12 April, a PhD student filed a sexual harassment complaint against a JNU professor who was her guide on her thesis to JNU’s internal complaints committee (ICC). She accused him of molesting her, sexually harassing her and threatening her repeatedly.
On 5 November, according to The Indian Express, the complainant’s accusations were termed ‘false’ by the ICC and she was barred from attending college.
“The complainant should be completely debarred from entering in the JNU campus. She shall not be allowed to take up any course or employment in the JNU in future. She should not be allowed to enter in the JNU campus to attend any academic or non academic proceedings. She should not be allowed to enter in the JNU campus for her personal reasons what so ever.”Vibha Tandon, Presiding Officer, JNU ICC.
The recommendations came as a rude shock to the complainant as well as to the students. On Thursday, the JNUSU decided to meet with the vice chancellor to discourage him from accepting the ICC’s recommendations.
When the representatives from the students’ union reached the admin office, they were blocked from entering. The JNUSU President N Sai Balaji then wrote a letter to the administration asking for answers and an opportunity to have a two-way dialogue with the administration.
‘ICC Has Been Problematic in the Past’
The JNUSU President told The Quint how problematic the ICC has been in the past and that the JNUSU has been apprised of past cases in which the complainant has been threatened by members of the ICC.
He also added that rustication of the complainant is an unheard of decision. According to him, the now defunct Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) was a much better institution to report to.
The Quint independently tried to reach out to the administration. We called Vibha Tandon, the presiding officer of JNU ICC. She disconnected our call the minute we started probing about the case.
We also reached out to the vice chancellor. He too disconnected our call. We have sent the following email to the JNU ICC.
We have not received any response to this either.
We tried reaching out to the complainant as well. Since she is not in the country at the moment, we were unable to establish contact. Here’s what she told The Indian Express.
“The ICC was hostile to me from the beginning and had told me not to travel abroad. I’ve submitted my PhD but I’m yet to receive my degree because of which I haven’t been able to apply for a post-doctoral fellowship or a teaching job. The way they have barred me from campus and said I should be escorted by guards, I feel like I’m the criminal.”
Such an Environment Will Endanger the Safety of Women: GSCASH
Here’s what the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) have to say about this sexula harassment case at JNU.
We would like to point out to the JNU community that the ICC has recommended an exemplary punishment to a complainant, while no perpetrator has been punished to that extent in any of its inquiries. We know that such punitive measures will have an adverse impact on the very process of gender sensitization among the university community. Since under the ICC Rules and Procedures only women can be the ‘aggrieved parties’ who can lodge complaints, such punishments will deter women students from making complaints of sexual harassment. Proceedings on complaints that end up in punishing the complainants may also result in withdrawal of complaints, which will be tantamount to forced withdrawal, and intimidate women from participating in the inquiry process with full agency. Such an environment is fast becoming established in JNU, and if entrenched, shall endanger the health and safety of every woman member of the JNU community, as the only recourse to them will be to suffer sexual harassment and violence without complaint or protest. Far from creating a climate where talk of gender equality is possible, this atmosphere will undermine the tireless participation of JNU community over the last two decades in ensuring proper procedures for gender sensitization and gender justice.
The students unanimously feel that irrespective of the veracity of the complaint, the punitive action taken against the complainant will act as a deterrent to women reporting cases in the future.
We will update this story as and when we have a response from the administration.
(This story was updated on 14 December at 6.30 pm with the GSCASH’s statement.)