Jadavpur University on Boil on Incidents of Serial Molestation

Sananda Dasgupta

It’s not even two years; Jadavpur University has witnessed one of the most massive students’ movements of recent times. Hokkolorob, a movement which started with an incident of a case of molestation within the premises of the university campus and ended with the resignation of the then Vice Chancellor, Abhijit Chakraborty, raised much hope for the student’s politics as well as for the movement for gender justice. Although many participants of the movement are of the view that the focus of the movement was shifted towards the incident of lathicharge on the protesting students and the justice for the molestation survivor was never ensured. The accused are still free on bail, and no one cares much about it, they are satisfied with the resignation of the Vice Chancellor Abhijit Chakraborty who called police in the campus. But what this movement has surely did, it created a bunch of more conscious and articulated youths, who have a much clearer idea about the gender issues. Of course the change of discourse in the larger society has played its role too in this positive change. This section might not be the majority in the campus, but they are vocal and ensure that their voices are heard.

The same university is again on the headline, and this time too for the cases of molestation. The accused Ekalavya Chaudhury is a student of English department and son of a professor of the same department. On July 23, one batch mate of Chadhuri accused him in a Facebook post, for molesting her on more than one occasion. She described in her post how she had been molested in the department four times by Chaudhury. She also added that she complained against Chaudhury, to the teachers of the department almost a year back and department took some steps which was satisfactory but after that Chaudhury continued to harass and bully her both online and inside the department. The post clearly shows the survivor was intimidated by the power possessed by Chaudhury and his family. She again and again showed concern for her own future and career as Chaudhury belongs to a family well known and powerful in the urban intellectual arena of the city and he himself is quite famous for his own writing, theatre and other skills. It was also clear that the department didn’t take proper steps and for that the survivor had to go through this ordeal for almost a year before speaking up in public and she expressed her satisfaction under some sort of fear of being isolated and intimidated in the department and thus among the section where her future lies. Probably at that time she didn’t know her post will actually open a floodgate. Within hours of her post several other girls started posting about their similar experiences with Chaudhury. On the same day over a dozen women including minors posted on Facebook how they have been sexually harassed by Chaudhury over a three-year period, via texts, online messages and physical assault. They shared screen shots and verbal reports of the abuse they faced which includes sexually explicit messages that continued even after repeated demands to stop, to physical molestation. Students from other schools and universities are also there among the survivors. On the next day, the original post of the survivor was taken down by Facebook for some unknown reasons, and several other survivors complained that their social media accounts are being hacked. But it was too late as by then thousand others took the responsibility to share and re share the posts and screenshots.  Till now over 21 women have come out to speak up about their horrific experiences with Chaudhury and the number is increasing each day.

Soon after the posts went viral, support and solidarity started pouring in from the different sections of JU community including students, teachers as well as alumnus. It came into light how the whole incident was hushed up within the department and the only step was taken to do counseling of the accused, of course with no positive result. Mother of the accused, Prof. Chandrayee Niyogi along with another professor of the department allegedly used her power to suppress the issue and intimidate the complainer.

The whole incident infuriated the students who seek a proper redressal for the survivors. Two of the survivors filed a written complaint against Ekalavya Chaudhury to the JU administration. Students of the department of English decided to boycott their classes until Chaudhury is suspended from attending classes. On July 26, when Chaudhury came to attend the class, the students staged a walkout, standing by that demand.
On July 27, in a General Body Meeting students framed certain demands and according to the statement of Arts Faculty Students Union all of those demands were met by the Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das. Following is the statement put up by the Students union on social media platform on July 27.

  1. r.t (sic) the suspension of Ekalavya Chaudhuri for the duration of the probe by an independent committee, the VC complied and gave the order. The order will be issued and he will be suspended with immediate effect fromtomorrow till the completion of the probe (approximately 7 working days). This order will be communicated to the Board of Studies (B.o.S) of the English department (the department Ekalavya happens to study in) via the Head.
  1. The probe committee will have an elected student representative. Initially, the GB had decided that the representative should be from the Arts Faculty but the University brought something to our notice, namely that if the verdict went against Ekalavya and was challenged in a court of law it could interpret AFSU as a party to the case and that would unnecessarily delay justice. The Head of Department, Santanu Biswas, was there and suggested that an SFSU office bearer be nominated. The survivors said that they had no issue with this and that they would rather no difficulties were created later. Therefore, either the SFSU GS or AGS will be the student representative in the committee and will report to the student body.
  2. r.t (sic) the demand that [Ekalavya’s parent, as member of the Faculty] not take over as Head of Department of the English Department, the VC has said that he will speak to hertomorrow morning and ask her in his official capacity to not assume Headship. 

According to the students, Chaudhury has been suspended by the authority on July 28 and also Niyogi was asked to not assume the headship of the department. The probe committee is also set up.
Many of the students are of the opinion that this is the right occasion to push their demand of GSCASH which is pending from the time of Hokkolorob. They said ICC can never meet the demand of gender justice and GSCASH should necessarily be set up by the authority with immediate effect.

Sexual harassment and molestation is natural bi product of the patriarchal discriminatory society we live in. These have always been a reality in this society. In work places, at the education institutions, in every walk of life it has been normalized for years. The society finds faults of the survivor and shames them for such incidents. They have always been silenced with power and intimidation. It’s a radical change we are witnessing in the recent years where the women are coming out to break the cycle of silence that pervades the rape culture and challenge the status quo. They are showing a lot of courage by speaking up even after all the stigmas, intimidation and bullying. Now, it’s a collective duty of the society to stand by them and ensure they do not regret their decision to speak up and in this respect the ongoing movement in Jadavpur University is indeed an important one.