List of Indian academicians accused of sexual harassment goes viral; polarised opinions emerge
This post has been created by Raya Sarkar who wishes to 'make people wary' of these academicians. It has been condemned by 14 feminists who are associated with Kafila, a publication which explores contemporary issues
A post containing the names of 60 Indian academicians from colleges all over the country, who have been accused of sexual harassment has been doing the rounds on Facebook. It has been created by Raya Sarkar, who describes herself as an "attorney interested in prisoner's rights, reproductive rights, and anti-caste jurisprudence" in her bio. Apart from Koushik Roy, Bidyut Chakraborty, Nilanjan Dutta, RC Natrajan, Shyamal Sengupta, Mridul Bose, and BN Ray, Firstpost has not been able to independent verify whether a complaint has been filed, registered, or any charges have been filed against the rest of the academicians whose names have been included in this list.
Sarkar has invited other women to contribute to the list, which has now grown to this figure of 60 names of professors who work in institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Film and Television Institute of India. As of 25 October, this list included more than 10 professors from Jadavpur University, nine from Delhi University and two from JNU. It also has names from Christ University, Ambedkar University Delhi and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute.
"If any one knows of academics who have sexually harassed/were sexually predatory to them or have seen it first hand PM me and I'll add them to the list," writes Sarkar in her post. She says that she has a full list of the names of victims too, but that she will not reveal it. She also said that one of the victims will be filing an internal complaint soon. She has written that the purpose of the list is to make people wary of these professors. "This list is not for their colleagues chai biscuit gossip or some kind of crusade to get them kicked out of their Universities because if that were actually possible they would be long gone," she writes.
Every time a commenter has expressed disbelief over the appearance of a particular name in the list, Sarkar has maintained that the accusations were confirmed by multiple sources who have reported instances to her directly. "Most if not all are first person accounts of people who were molested/sexually harassed by the people who have been put on this list. Rest are a friend they (the victims) have chosen to specifically contact me as they fear their identity being disclosed. In fact, since there is a disturbing amount of rape apologia and victim blaming the victims have gone out of their way to show me screenshots of them being harassed and abused by the people they have named," writes Sarkar in a comment on the post.
Firstpost spoke to one of the academicians on the list, who wishes to be anonymous, and asked him to respond to these allegations. "My name was dropped and then added again. When I reached out to her, I was blocked. If she believes in freedom of speech, why isn't she telling me what I've done? I am feeling like a victim," he said.
Some people and organisations have supported Sarkar and the list.
We stand in solidarity with Raya Sarkar and the survivors who contributed to her list. This is our statement on the same. pic.twitter.com/lPdt5vmrPr
— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) October 25, 2017
Kafila, which publishes pieces on contemporary issues authored by Indian academics, scholars, writers and journalists, has released an official statement about this list, condemning it. The authors have said that naming people in this manner can "delegitimise" the fight against sexual harassment and have appealed to the people behind this list to withdraw it.
"We are dismayed by the initiative on Facebook, in which men are being listed and named as sexual harassers with no context or explanation. One or two names of men who have been already found guilty of sexual harassment by due process, are placed on par with unsubstantiated accusations. It worries us that anybody can be named anonymously, with lack of answerability," reads the statement.
It has been signed by 14 women who identify themselves as feminists. These women include Ayesha Kidwai and Nivedita Menon, who are professors at JNU; Kavita Krishnan, an activist and secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA); and Vrinda Grover, a lawyer and human and women's rights activist. They go on to say that when there is a genuine complaint filed, there are institutions and procedures which must be made use of, whilst acknowledging that the process is "harsh and often tilted against the complainant". They say that they are committed to due process, which they term 'fair and just'.
Firstpost has mailed Raya Sarkar a set of questions, but is yet to receive a reply. This article will be updated with her responses when she does.
With inputs from Pallavi Kamakshi Rebbapragada