Recently, two cases of sexual harassment in campus have emerged out of West Bengal. In one case, a Sikkimese student of Kalabhavana of the Viswabharati University (established by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore) was duped and allegedly raped by some senior students of the same department. They also video-graphed the victim and blackmailed her not to lodge a complaint about the matter. In another instance, a girl was molested and kept locked inside a hostel room of the Jadavpur University when she went there with a friend to attend the college fest.
In both the cases, not only the victims but also their friends, students and the teaching community appeared clueless as to how to legally deal with the cases and left the matter completely on the university authorities, who themselves sound apathetic of the first order. For example look at the statement made by the head of Kalabhavana Shishir Sahana for which police action must be taken for dereliction of duty. “Why asking me? I am not the father or relative of the girl. Why shall I file a police complaint in this case?” he allegedly said to media.
The father of the victim complained that the VC of the Viswabharati University (who himself lost the Indian civil honour Padma Shri because of an earlier case of sexual harassment) asked him to choose between the internal committee (set up under the Supreme Court guidelines in the Visakha case) and the police and threatened that if he indeed goes to the police, the university administration would do nothing. Later on, when the matter reached to the media, police arrested the three students and at the moment recording the statement by the victim.
The Jadavpur University student-community also looks quite directionless how to approach the matter legally and relying too much on the administration to deal with the case. It is only shameful that while the Students Union bodies present at these campuses are busy organising college fests, they rarely hold any gender sensitisation camp at the beginning of the session as instructed in the Vishakha guidelines. More shameful is that students also vote in the elections debating who can organise a better fest. On the campus, the students and teachers’ community are rarely aware of the working of the internal gender sensitisation committee due to the negligence of the university administration for which they must be questioned.