An MA student of Jadavpur University alleged on social media that she has been inappropriately touched and ‘violated’ by another student of the university during a feminist protest held inside the campus. The accused Sushil Kumar went missing after his name was made public on Facebook. The case took an ugly turn as the family of the accused lodged an FIR against the victim and those who supported her calling it a case of caste oppression.
The series of incident:
On January 15, a group of students participated in a feminist protest organised by USDF (United Student’s Democratic Front) and Radical. A few days later she wrote a Facebook post accusing a Radical member of ‘touching her on the waist’ and violating her during the protest. After internal discussions and meetings with Radical, USDF published the name of the accused on Facebook who is also a Radical member. However, no official complaint was filed against him till date. The Facebook post was made on the 28 January 2017. Unable to deal with the public shaming, the accused MPhil student bolted from his hostel room on 2 February. As he disappeared, the victim was blamed for the disappearance. The victim also alleges that she has been harassed and violated more than once and it has been a series of incident which she is accusing the alleged for.
After a lot of trials to trace him, his family finally resorted to the Police for help on the 3 Feb. Family of the accused lodged and FIR against the girl along with four other members of USDF who took a stand for her. Victim was sued for slander while the rest were charged with SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and also kidnapping. Soon after the FIR victim and her supporter members of USDF were accused by the Radicals for defaming the accused. In response to which she wrote another Facebook post.
The students are however split in opinion unable to decide who the real victim is in the case. On one hand there is a woman who allegedly got violated while on the other they victim and her supporters are slammed for aggravating this issue to satisfy their personal differences with the disappeared accused and his party.
Talking to a few students of Jadavpur University, some accuse the victim of not going to the Police or Internal Complaints Committee addressing the concern when she was facing regular harassment as she alleges on her social media posts. Publicly shaming a boy is hardly the solution, said some. Some students also shamed the victim accusing her of ventilating her personal grievances on the accused post the student election as she chose to express herself after the elections.
She clarified that she is not associated with any student political party within the campus. “That is wrong, I did not campaign because of elections as USDF radical did not have any chance of winning to begin with. I did not care for the elections, just feminist leftist political activity. Feminist activity in the campus was a new and refreshing change for me” she said. “I had not asked the victim to stop and then continued because the election is going on. that is outrageous. I had felt violated by his touches most during the lock breaking campaign and I could not say anything due to sheer shock. Before that, he had acted creepy as creepy men do.” she added
However, the victim said that going to the authority would barely have helped her situation. “The incident happened during a campaign in which we were breaking the locks on the doors of women’s washrooms with rods. If I went to the police, they would have blamed me for vandalism instead and not considered it molestation at all since the crime was not ‘sexual enough’ in nature. Such things have happened before,” said the victim.
General Secretary of USDF, Soumo Mondal said, “The girl is not part of either party but this happened to her during an event organised by the USDF-Radical alliance. She came to us with the complaint and we had to take responsibility. Sadly, Radical did not keep their end of the deal.”
This issue resurfaces soon after the the awful case of Ekalavya Chaudhuri came to light. Ekalavya, an undergraduate student of Jadavpur University was charged of harassment reported collectively by a lot of women. In the incident it was revealed that Chaudhuri, with help from a female friend from Presidency University, continued to intimidate the accused in her social life and on campus even after she first brought this to public notice. As a Facebook post from one of the victims drew attention a dozen other women came forward on Facebook to share similar narratives about the accused with screenshots of conversations that Chaudhuri had with them.
The latest story took a surprising turn as the missing boy’s brother has alleged in the FIR, and in the press releases that followed the complaint, that the five accused mentally tortured the boy over political differences.
“..my brother, being a member of the scheduled tribe, was unable to bear with such unprecedented insult fabricated against him by the assailants hailing from general caste following a “dispute” related to student politics on the campus.”, the complaint states. Jubi Saha, active member of Radical, confirmed the allegations. She said that despite the Radical promised to enact immediately on the issue, victim still took matters into her own hands and publicly named the boy, which only meant her intentions were to malign and not sorting the issue out.
“The boy himself said that had he not been from a low income Adivasi family, this would not have happened to him.” Saha added.
There has been a lot of reported cases lately about women being harassed and sharing their stories on social media despite really going to the police. As we spoke to a few women, they claimed that they feel safer while expressing themselves on social media platforms rather than going to the people employed for their safety; which indeed raises a lot of questions on women safety in the world we are living in.
“We stand at a precarious turn in time when women have started to define these things as not-ok and patriarchal society and men benefiting from it are shaken from their positions of comfort, where a graze on the waist was met with at most a slap and then hushed up. They are shocked at and disbelieving of my account because “these things keep happening, why make a big deal of it? I have been put down for being an English speaking smoker who wears short clothes and lectures people on feminism. I am an outsider here by all standards and it gets on the nerves of men high up in the patriarchal and power structure when I speak up, when I tell them that this is my opinion – my strong, feminist, loud opinion against YOU. It really pisses them off that I have support from sensible woman who also utter that dreaded F word that they’ve come to hate so much. They’re pitting feminism against caste struggle and overlooking intersectionality to a ridiculous extent, not bringing up gender except to express contempt at how I’m using it as a card to get my way. There is deep xenophobic misogyny within the circles of leftists that are Patriarchal in their leanings. I have been beaten up, abused and an assault has been attempted. I have been made fun of, called an elitist for bringing up feminism and been thrown into the deep end of dirty misogynist left politics that laughs at women like me,” said the victim.
When asked about how women who barely have social media exposure, which is a big reality in our country would deal with such instances, she said “Women in closed spaces are often not aware of the kind of rights they have. I would say that they need to be informed about their rights but at the same time, women like me who believe that this is the right thing to do are faced with institutionalised patriarchy within the legal system which can just turn around and bite them instead. I complained against a person who molested me and now I have an FIR against me.”