Published: 10th January 2019
ICC killed gender justice in JNU with Johri report: Why students protested report on #MeToo prof
Professor Atul Johri was given a clean chit by the JNU ICC on sexual harassment allegations. It also observed that Johri was threatened by the students
Eight women. Eight separate FIRs. Even though they are worded differently, collectively they said the same thing. "I was sexually assaulted by Atul Johri." They came forward almost a year ago, in March 2018. They were supported by the students and the faculty, who held protests for a probe in the issue. But a year later, the students say that they saw gender and social justice is being killed in the JNU campus after the Internal Complaints Committee issued a clean chit to Johri.
Several complaints later, Johri is still a faculty in the university's School of Life Sciences. The ICC report on the issue, signed by its presiding officer Vibha Tandon says that Johri possesses no threat to the students, but was instead threatened by the complainants and the witnesses. "It is important to note that various ingredients of allegations of sexual harassment against the defendant by the complainants are proved wrong. However, since the complainants have refused to appear before the committee, therefore certain ingredients could not be ascertained," the report reads.
The complainants and the students, however, slammed the report. "This is all made up. There was no threat to him ever," says Preeti Umarao, Representative, Student-Faculty Council, SLS, who's been representing the complainants. She says that once Johri tired entrerring the SLS when he was directed not to do so by the court. He was stopped by the students stating that a few complainants worked there. "The ICC is falsely using this incident to project that he is not guilty when that isn't true. The JNU administration wanted this right from the beginning," she says.
The students also staged a protest in front of Vibha Tandon's office on Thursday, seeking her resignation and a written apology to the victims. "The words used in the ICC report are derogatory. The ICC is just indulging in victim blaming to create a fake image that JNU is a safe space for women. But if this continues, no student will ever dare to report sexual harassment in the university," Preeti says. She also says that none of the victims were questioned by the ICC before they submitted the report. "We do not trust the ICC. They can easily manipulate the evidence," she says. The protesting students also wanted the ICC to be replaced with the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH).
She also adds that the ICC's recommendations are not in accordance with the Vishaka guidelines or the JNU Act. Even though the ICC calls the complaint fake, it hasn't recommended any action against the complainants. The JNU Students' Union also slammed the ICC and voiced their support to the complainants.
A month ago, the ICC dismissed the complaint of sexual harassment by a PhD scholar, calling it 'frivolous'. They also recommended her to be debarred and her degree to be suspended.
When we contacted her, Vibha Tandon refused to comment on the issue. An email sent to Atul Johri on this issue did not yield a response.