Sexual Harassment Charges Emerge Against IIT-B Student Mentor
A final-year engineering student from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) has been accused of sexually harassing 15 juniors on campus over the last 6-7 months.
In an exclusive telephonic interview with The Quint, a batchmate of the accused opened up about these allegations. He narrated one such instance of sexual harassment which led to no redressal on the part of the college, and spoke further about other incidents.
The accused senior was a teaching assistant for first- and second-year students and managed the institution's famed cultural festival Mood Indigo. He was selected by Dean of Student Affairs Soumyo Mukherji as a mentor to freshers as part of the Institute Student Mentor Program (ISMP). His role as a mentor was to guide the new students regarding academics in the college and professional skills in respective fields. It was here that he first interacted with the complainant.
After the initial interaction during the ISMP and some exchanges on Facebook Messenger, the third-year student called the complainant to his room and allegedly forced himself on him. Initially, the complainant was apprehensive about reporting this incident to other students, seniors, authorities and his own family due to fear of judgement.
The complainant reached out to the IIT-B's Dean of Student Affairs, Soumyo Mukherji. The Quint was told that all such matters are raised at a meeting of the Disciplinary Actions Committee (DAC). In this case, even after informing the concerned authorities, no action was taken.
A meeting over the alleged incident was held only 3-4 months after the complaint was first registered. After the meeting, the Dean simply impeached the accused from his position as IMSP mentor and revoked all his official certificates – an action that seems inconsequential as the accused student had already secured a college placement.
The Quint has accessed a letter written by the complainant to the Dean of the college. In this letter, the complainant states that the senior was referred to as ‘machau’ or God by all the other freshmen. He has asked for justice, not only for himself, but for every other person who was involved.
The email reads, “He brainwashed me by saying how lonely he was as he was the only child in the family. He said that he needed a brother to talk to. Then he hugged me and forced me to lie down on his bed. And then he kissed me. I just froze. I repeat — I had not imagined this to happen ever in my life. (sic)”
The complainant spoke about being continuously harassed by the mentor on Facebook. Even though he said he tried to ignore the senior after the incident, there was another incident.
During IIT-B’s annual college fest, Mood Indigo, he says he had another encounter with this mentor. This time with unwarranted comments such as asking the complainant to “lick his tongue while kissing”.
Social Media the Last Resort
The complainant, fed up with the college’s inaction, turned to social media. He took to an IIT-B confession page on Facebook to publicise what had happened in the last 6-7 months. According to the anonymous post on the page, the accused only targeted men, mostly freshmen, as he felt that they didn’t have the strength and courage to tell the world what happened.
In the post, the accused had been termed a ‘molester’ and ‘harasser’. The fact that the accused is graduating from college without receiving any stern punishment is also questioned. The post also said that even though there was not one, but 15 known incidents of harassment, the authorities took no action.
On the contrary, the Dean called the admin of the confession page and tried to shut it down. Now the alumni of IIT Bombay have decided to moderate the page. The Quint’s sources say that the final-year students are planning to boycott the Convocation Day, since PM Narendra Modi is the Chief Guest of the event.
A Facebook post by another batchmate about the accused, dated 13 June, states, “He is now under mental health counselling as his case is deemed to be one of mental instability.”
IIT Dean Responds to Our Calls
The Quint spoke to IIT-Bombay’s Dean of Academic Affairs, Soumyo Mukherji about the allegations. Here’s what he had to say.
Has action been taken regarding these sexual harassment allegations?
Action has been taken on complaints that were registered earlier, on the basis of evidence procured by us at that time. IIT-Bombay has a zero-tolerance policy as far as matters of harassment are concerned. However, this is the first time a ‘boy-to-boy’ thing has been raised. Otherwise, there is an entire committee to handle such cases.
What measures have been taken by the institute to punish the accused?
Based on evidence we had in March, no academic punishments could have been given. But other punishments like revoking his mentorship and official certificates have been done.
How is it that the accused still has his placement despite the allegations levied against him?
The placements had gotten over in December. At that time, as I said earlier, no academic punishments could have been given.
When will the college take action?
The matter is not that simple. Since I am not a judge in a courtroom or the enforcement directorate, I cannot make predictions. We need time to verify all the accusations and evidence before we reach to any conclusions.
The Quint is following up on the matter. The copy will be updated as and when we get more updates.