The crescendo of sexual harassment against some teachers of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) by some female students is currently hogging the limelight in the country. It is once again that the prestige of this great institution is at stake. A lot of care and caution is needed before rushing towards any judgement on such wild allegations.
The news peg is JNU's left and right leaning professors are embroiled in a string of sexual harassment related controversies by woman scholars having their own political leanings. In a few instances, they have even been slapped with charges of rape.
The first case is of Professor Atul Johri who belongs to Life Science department. He is accused of sexual harassment by women students. The accused Johri is a vocal supporter of the BJP/RSS alleges that it’s a political conspiracy by the Left supporters.
The second complaint is against two professors; Prof Mahendra P Lama and Prof Rajesh Kharat, both from the Centre for South Asian Studies, School of International Studies (SIS). Both are former chairperson of the CSAS and are in its interview panel.
Professor Lama has spent nearly 30 years in teaching career and is a former JNU student, and pro Gorkhaland political activists. He is well known hard task master and is now on verge of retirement.
The complaint is the woman scholar who is a fourth year PhD student at Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS), SIS. She has alleged that sexual harassment happened when she went to China with Prof Mahendra P Lama.
In this regard a petition was filed in Delhi High Court; a male student alleged that his PhD registration was deliberately stopped on frivolous grounds, because he had helped the female student who was allegedly sexually harassed by Prof Lama.
Being a student of JNU and proud of its liberal values, it shames me, how the campus politics has become a dog fight between the left and right forces and has now stooped to such sexual innuendoes.
In this narrative, I clearly read two sub text and see two patterns emerging, both having its own axe to grind.
The first is; politics between left and right has come down to the level that now plots are being hatched using sex as a weapon to score some brownie points between the two groups.
Some female students of left and right leanings are battling it out on sexual innuendoes, targeting the teachers with the motive to fulfil their own vested agenda. They think that using sex as a powerful tool; they can get away with the laurels of being feminist champions. In this they don’t mind tarnishing the image of some of their teachers.
They second angle to this story is those who look for short cuts in academics are using such old trick to get away with their mediocrity.
We all know, taking a degree from JNU is a hard axe to grind. Many have dropped out because they could not cope with the pressure of high academics there.
This applies to both the sexes equally. Now, in this case some female students, who found the going is tough at JNU, have struck upon this bright idea that they can blackmail the teachers by raising hue and cry of sexual abuse.
In past, the sexual harassment case if any has been severely dealt by the student’s body as there is internal mechanism in place to address all such issues. These matters never went out of the campus and were settled within its boundary walls. It is for the first time that now students are running to police stations and to the courts, caring too hoots of the internal grievances mechanism within the campus.
The question is if all such allegations are found to be untrue then what penal action can be taken against those who have rushed to police station and the courts. Will they get away being students and being so, construed to be virtuous and innocents? This is a serious matter and needs careful handling.
The near perfect students – teacher’s relationship is the hallmark of JNU. Outside the classroom there is a great camaraderie between the teachers and students. This is something that’s being envied by other institutions in the country.
As a student of JNU from (1985- 1994), I have seen a clash of between students and teachers on the issue of scholarship. Students rose up in protest against mediocre teachers.
Now, I am aghast to learn that woman identity is tossed up to play politics in the campus and that too against the teachers. JNU politics has stooped to unprecedented low Fahrenheit. It’s really unfortunate and points towards deteriorating moral values among the students.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He has taken his PhD from the Centre for South Asian Studies, School of International Studies (SIS). He can be contacted at email@example.com.]
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