Students at India’s premiere institute of learning, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are now engaged in a battle against sexual harassment by faculty. The situation in the esteemed place of learning has become tense over the past few days with the administration refusing to remove the accused professor from the power positions he is holding. The students, at the same time are fighting a number of other issues both academic and administration related and are on strike.
As many as nine students have accused Professor Atul Johri of sexual harassment. On Thursday (15 March, 2018) a student who had been missing from the campus returned and withdrew from academics stating misbehaviour from the accused professor as reason. Soon, more women came up with complaints of sexual harassment against Johri.
JNU’s Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GS-CASH) was dissolved last year. Students are not confident about approaching the new body regarding sexual harassment. This lack of faith in the internal, semi-judicial mechanism seems to have forced women to approach the police. The Sexual Harassment Act of 2013, which superseded the Visakha Guidelines aimed at equipping women with a mechanism that was not the court of law to deal with sexual harassment.
The police have booked Johri under Sections 354 (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC but is yet to arrest him. Johri has resigned from two of the many positions he holds in JNU but at the same time insists that the women complainants hold a grudge against him for being strict with attendance. However, an e-mail sent to the professor by one of the complainants points towards misconduct that had already taken place. The letter calls Johri a ‘characterless person’ who lacked ‘manners to talk to girls.’ As more complaints came up, more details regarding the professor’s behaviour surfaced. A statement by the complainants said that he ‘made sexually coloured remarks, openly demanded sex and commented on the figure of almost every woman. If a woman objected, he held a grudge against her and threatened to ruin her research career.’
As of now, the students have surrounded the administrative building demanding the arrest of Johri.