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A student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Sakshi Rajoriya, has gone on an indefinite strike at the main gate of the campus, alleging inaction by the administration regarding her sexual harassment complaint against four individuals. The incident, which occurred on the night of 31 March, where the victim was sexually harassed and derogatory remarks were passed by four people, including two former students of the University. 

The incident occurred on 30-31 March, at night, around 2 AM, at the Ring Road, where the student; a sophomore from the Chinese Centre, was walking with a friend, who is also a student from the School of Language, when objectionable and derogatory comment were passed by four people in a car. The perpetrators included two former students, while the rest were currently enrolled Ph.D. scholars; out of which two were male and two were female. These were Krishna Kant Jha (CKS, Ph.D. scholar) and some of his friends Vikrant Kumar (Centre for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Ph.D. scholar), Ayushi (SLL&CS, ex-student) and Aishwarya Pratap Singh (SLL&CS ex-student),  who called them names like, “love birds”, “red salute”, and “comrade”.

The incident took place in the presence of JNU security guards. Upon complaining about this incident to the guard, the car was stopped, and it was then that they started abusing Sakshi and her friends, and even threatened them.. When the student approached the guard and questioned their inaction against them, They simply replied, “we cannot do anything, you and them both are students”.

Avijit Ghosh, Vice President of the JNU Student Union, revealed in a conversation with DU Beat, “At around 5 A.M., the victim lodged a complaint via email to the Chief Proctor and Vice Chancellor. By 9 A.M., all four JNUSU office bearers met with the survivor and were briefed on the incident. We proceeded to the Chief Secretary Officer’s office to file the complaint formally. Our demands included proper identification of the four accused individuals, including their names, registration numbers, and hostels. Despite prolonged deliberation and pressure, which lasted from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M., and numerous attempts to contact the Chief Secretary Officer, who was off-campus, identification was eventually obtained. Subsequently, accompanied by the survivor, we visited the Proctor’s office, where a formal complaint detailing the incident was submitted”.

JNU Students’ Union not only strongly condemned this behavior but also rejected normalisation of such actions, including attempts to shield perpetrators and called for unity among the students in opposing escalating cases of sexual harassment on campus, amidst the lax attitude of the administration  and security  in dealing with such grave cases. 

Moreover, Gopika, the Councillor of School of Social Sciences, shed light on the incident, as she told DU Beat that the identification details that were provided were false, “Owing to it being a Sunday, offices like Proctor, Internal Complaints Committee, etc., were closed. So, the union members submitted a complaint to the Chief Secretary’s office the following day. It was concerning to witness a significant disparity in the identification details provided by the administration regarding the perpetrators”.

It was further noted that when the survivor went on to complaint, the security took her ID card. But on the contrary, when the vehicle of the perpetrators was caught, their ID cards were not taken.

Reflecting on the efficiency of the system amidst a rising tide of sexual harassment cases within the campus, Gopika remarked, “The entire student community, along with the student union, stands in solidarity with the affected student. Nevertheless, it ultimately falls upon the administration to ensure a safe environment for everyone on campus”.

Sakshi has also expressed frustration at the lack of response from the administration, emphasizing that the perpetrators were still roaming freely on campus. She asserted no tangible actions have been taken. This situation has sparked a wave of discontent and demands for accountability within the university community. The complainant raised concerns about her safety and security on campus, especially as one of the alleged perpetrators resides in the same hostel as her.

Demanding immediate action, she has called for restraining one of the accused from Sabarmati Hostel, cancellation of the accused’s registration, and out-of-bound orders for former students involved. 

Oishe , the Councilor of School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies, in conversation with DU Beat, expressed her dismay that such an incident took place with a student from their school. She revealed how both Sakshi and the accused are students of the School of Language. “It will be really upsetting and traumatizing for her to be in the same hostel as that person, or eat in that mess; a key reason why she can’t go back there as Sakshi decided to sit and block the main gate of the JNU Campus till her demands are met and out-of-bound orders are given from the administration to all the perpetrators who directed harassment at her.”

Oishe shared, “It’s been 60 hours since Sakshi and fellow students are protesting at the main gate. There were eyewitnesses who saw Krishna Kant and other accused misbehave, and this is where the question arises: What is stopping the administration from doing an investigation and catching the culprits?,  they simply want to protect and shield resourceful people for the institution. It is so disappointing that this is happening in a campus like JNU. While the former students, (two women) have been given out of bound orders by the administration to show that action is being taken, the other culprits are roaming around freely”.

Underscoring the administration’s lack of corporation in the case, Oishe revealed, “In fact, you’ll be shocked to know that the faculty members of China Centre pressurized Sakshi to ‘negotiate’, coupled with a proctoral inquiry by office bearers on her for sitting and protesting at the main gate”.

According to the JNU Students’ Union, the perpetrators belonged to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliate,  Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP); this claim was, however, denied by the ABVP. In a message circulated by the JNU Students’ Union for protest demonstration, the indifference by the Chief Secretary Officer and outright denial to provide ID card information of perpetrators, was viewed as a deliberate attempt to intimidate the survivor and shield the culprits.

Avijit, the Vice President of JNUSU, stated, “Following the formal complaint, JNUSU conducted a mess campaign with the survivor to raise awareness among students about the incident. On 31 March, a protest was organized at Sabarmati Dhaba at 9 pm, followed by a mass delegation to the Chief Proctor’s Office. The next day, 1 April , JNUSU, along with the survivor and other students, visited the Chief Proctor’s Office. During this visit, the survivor provided her testimony, initiating the inquiry process. It was during this period that the survivor, supported by some students, called for a strike due to the administration’s failure to enforce restraining orders against the accused as per her demands.”

He further elaborated that the restraining order prohibits the accused from approaching the complainant or entering the campus to influence her in any way. Violation of this order would result in the accused being issued out-of-bound orders.

Emphasizing on the spirit of JNUSU and the support rendered, Avijit added, “All through the night, all office bearers were in constant negotiations with the administration. The following day, 2 April, an out-of- bound notice was released from the Chief Proctor, in addition to the restraining orders for those who are enrolled students and the former was issued to ex-students.”

The demonstration by the left-led student union organized in response to the incident, not only denounced the alleged perpetrators’ actions and criticized the administration’s handling of the matter, but also had reinstating of GSCASH (an elected look into such matters) and disbandment of ICC as one of its key agendas. 

GSCASH (the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment), has always been in action in JNU, but it was in 2017 that it got dismantled and was replaced with The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), a body put in its place to root out harassment from withtin the administration. 

The case has sparked outrage within the JNU community, with students demanding swift and decisive action against the accused individuals. The incident underscores the urgent need for effective measures to address and prevent sexual harassment on campus and ensure the safety and security of all students.

Read Also: “Allowed At Designated Places”- JNU Bans Protests Within 100m Of Any Academic Building; Violators May Face Rs. 20k Fine Or Expulsion

Featured Image Credits: Vanya Garud for DU Beat

Kavya Vashisht

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