In Sanskrit Varsity, Dalit women students protest sexual harassment standing outside college gates

The PhD students claim casteist and sexist comments were hurled at them by male members of AKRSA, a wing of the Student Federation of India
Three Dalit women students have resorted to a hunger strike after the University failed to take any action
Three Dalit women students have resorted to a hunger strike after the University failed to take any action

Three Dalit students are sitting on a dharna outside the Kaladi Sanskrit University to demand action against four males who sexually harassed and threw casteist abuses at them. When they had initially protested against the behaviour, members (all male) of the All Kerala Research Scholars Association barged into the women's hostel and created a ruckus. But now the students have taken to the roads because the University is allegedly not helping them.

Over the past few months, the Dalit students have allegedly been harassed by four students who are also members of the AKRSA. "They would call us dogs and say we should not protest against them because we are Dalits. Since we are getting all free scholarships, they said we are not supposed to stop them when they want to abuse us," one of the students said. "They would also make comments about our menstrual cycle and say we should stick to cleaning the toilets. They made extremely vile comments," another student said.

Frustrated with the repeated abuses, on October 25, the students decided to address a letter to the University authorities explaining the situation and asking for action. A print out of the letter was pasted on the girls' hostel walls. This apparently set off the members of the AKRSA who barged into the girls' hostel and created a scene, "The women went out to the hostels to confront them but they got vulgar with their language and their actions. There were people who got hurt as well," a student said.

No hope: The students claim that there is no ICC or any other body that can conduct a proper investigation into the matter

The students then approached the Registrar the next day only to be harassed again on their way. The VC then conducted a meeting with all the students, "At the meeting, he asked us how he can suspend the perpetrators saying all students deserve to study," a student recalled.

However, the University did end up suspending the students and claimed there would be an enquiry. On December 18, the three Dalit students found out that the suspension order had been revoked,"We were completely shocked. We were not informed about this. The University authorities said that they did not find any fault with the male students. Just imagine finding out that the men who abused us for our caste and gender are seen walking around campus with so much authority. We can't do anything to them," one of the protestors said.

"They are completely free. Even before the suspension was cancelled they would walk around on campus but not attend classes. Now they look at us and smirk at us, enjoying the fact that we are so helpless," she said.

Since the University is offering no help, three of the girls have decided to hold a dharna in front of their college gates. One of the girls is on an indefinite hunger strike, while the other two are supporting her. "We want the University to set up a proper ICC and conduct a full investigation into the matter. These students have repeatedly said casteist and sexist things to us and yet they walk around like they own the place. How can we be in the same classrooms as them," a victim questioned.

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