Published: 16th March 2018
Four reasons why the FIR against JNU professor will change how sexual harassment is reported
The professor is a close aide of the JNU VC and has been accused of making "sexually coloured" remarks at a number of female students belonging to his department
Over the last three years, the JNU administration has been on an FIR spree - students were getting slapped with FIRs left, right and centre. Now, for the first time in months, the students have managed to slap an FIR on a member of the faculty - Prof Atul Johri, a professor in the School of Life Sciences who has been accused of sexually harassing a number of female students in his department.
The JNU Student Council approached the police last evening to lodge an FIR after a number of students came out with complaints. It all started after a 26-year-old student mysteriously disappeared and then sent an email to the professor claiming she had decided to leave his lab because of his questionable behaviour towards women students. The was followed by many other students coming out to second the claim. He has been accused off passing lewd and sexually explicit remarks at the students.
With the #metoo movement and the Raya Sarkar List, stories of systematic sexual harassment from Universities across the country started to pour out. However, there was little action taken against the accused professors. This JNU incident brings back the attention to this long ongoing epidemic. In this case, as well, police refused to register a case because it was a "JNU issue" but gave in after the Student Union members refused to budge.
However, the fact that the students were eventually allowed to file an FIR has given the campus something to cheer about especially for the following reasons-
1. Johri is a right-wing activist and also a close associate of JNU VC M Jagadesh Kumar, who the students have locked horns with for a while now. He has been vocal about supporting the mandatory attendance system. Accusations against him will reflect badly on the administration,
2. The students had previously fought to reinstate the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) committee but were forced to instead set up the UGC recommended ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) which again did not include an appreciable number of student members or adopt any student friendly recommendations. In this case, they were asked to go ahead and file an FIR and they successfully did so.
3. Students from the Science schools usually do not open up about with these issues when compared to other schools. "There is a lot more pressure that students have in the science school because the professors run the labs. So if there are issues the students are forced to stay silent about them. But this incident will encourage more such stories to come out," said Geeta Kumar, President, JNUSU.
4. Besides the Science Schools, students say that there are professors in other departments as well who are guilty of sexually harassing students but they remain hidden because no one dares to speak up about it. But now Geeta Kumari is sure that those stories will find their way to the surface soon too.
The students also organised a protest on Friday to demand the immediate removal of Johri, "We will stand by all the students who have complained and ensure that all the steps are taken to bring justice to them," Geeta added.