Video Producer: Naman Shah
Video Editor: Rajbir Singh and Purnendu Pritam
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… it really needs to have its patriarchal and sexist head examined.
St Xavier’s University (SXU), Kolkata, had a choice – to be proud of employing an Assistant Professor of English who had studied at St Xavier’s College and Jadavpur University, and had a PhD from two European universities or be embarrassed by two pictures of her in a swimsuit.
Sadly, it seems St Xavier’s University chose to be embarrassed. It seems they chose to be sexist and regressive, instead of standing by their colleague. Instead of helping her find out how her privately posted social media pictures were dubiously made public, it seems they chose to protect their own reputation, even if that left the lecturer jobless and fighting a lone battle for justice.
The former assistant professor claims that St Xavier’s University authorities forced her to quit because she posted ‘objectionable’ and ‘inappropriate’ photos of herself on Instagram, which they alleged "hurt the reputation of the university."
She claims that the process by which she was led to resign amounted to sexual harassment and character assassination. For the record, SXU rejects her allegations and says the professor resigned voluntarily.
Instead of ‘She said’ vs ‘SXU Said,’ Lets Ask Some Questions
The assistant professor was confronted by seven senior colleagues of SXU on 7 October 2021. There, she claims a printout of two pictures of her in a swimsuit was circulated, after which she was told that a parent of a student had complained that he had seen his son viewing her swimsuit pictures, which the parent said were ‘objectionable’ and ‘bordered on nudity.’ She was told this hurt the reputation of SXU, and was asked for an explanation.
Even as she confirmed the pictures were hers, the professor raised a hugely valid point – she said she had posted these two pictures of herself in a swimsuit two months before she joined SXU, on her private Instagram account, which only those accepted by her as her followers can view. These posts last for just 24 hours on Instagram stories, then they drop off social media feeds. So, how could this student see these pictures almost four months later? Clearly the professor's Instagram account had been hacked, screenshots of her in a swimsuit downloaded, and later circulated on the internet, all illegally.
Why didn’t her senior colleagues at SXU leap up and say… we support you?
Why didn’t they say, 'We are sorry this happened to you, we recognise you are the victim of a cybercrime, we will help you file a case with the police, we are with you all the way, till those who hacked your Instagram account, invaded your privacy, and circulated your pictures illegally are brought to book.' Why was none of this said to the 31-year-old lecturer?
Why didn’t they say, 'Don’t worry… it doesn’t matter if these pictures have gone viral. We will speak to the students and to parents, we will inform them about the facts of the case, and ask them to also support you.'
Why did this university believe that standing up for her would hurt their reputation? Why not the opposite? That standing up for her would enhance their reputation, earn them applause?
Did they actually believe that two pictures of a faculty member in a swimsuit would corrupt the minds of their students? I mean, c’mon! We’re talking about students who today have free access to thousands of hours of highly graphic porn at the click of a button.
Questions for Kolkata Police
The lecturer claims she wrote to senior Kolkata police officials in November 2021, but got no response. She says she visited Kolkata’s cybercrime cell twice, only to be told by an officer that she was responsible because she had chosen to share the pictures. An FIR was finally filed only in February 2022, but so far there’s no progress in the case.
A 99 Crore Suit Against the Former Lecturer
In March 2022, the lecturer sent SXU a legal notice over how she was allegedly made to resign. But instead of reconsidering how they had dealt with her, the university actually demanded Rs 99 crore from the lecturer for damaging its name and reputation!
The question we’re left stuck with is – Why? What explains the choices that this university seems to have made?
The answer lies in a khichdi of age-old patriarchy, brazen hypocrisy, a complete lack of spine, sheer ignorance, and simply not giving a damn about one of yours.
Look around a bit, take a look at this recent video posted by actor Mukesh Khanna – yes, that’s ex-Mr Shaktiman saying that if a woman wants sex, that makes her a prostitute. We have terribly regressive films like Kabir Singh becoming superhits. We have men trolling Taapsee Pannu and Alia Bhatt for their roles in films like Thappad and Darlings, because their characters fight back against domestic violence. We have bizarrely attacked women’s choice of clothing from both directions, we are not okay with a lecturer posting pictures of herself in a swimsuit, nor are we ok with Muslim women students attending college in a hijab.
And so, as I said at the start, Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it really needs to have its patriarchal and sexist head examined!