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India: Expressing Concern About the Situation in Jadavpur University - A letter to the Governor of West Bengal by academics and concerned citizens

10 October 2014

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(via facebook - 8 October 2014)

Sri Keshari Nath Tripathi
Governor, West Bengal

Dear Shri Tripathi,

We, the undersigned academics and concerned citizens, are writing to you with grave concern, about the situation in Jadavpur University, as you are also the Chancellor of the University.

We have read in newspapers, seen on television, or read through social media posts, enough to understand that the following serious problems occurred.

First, in late August, a young woman, a student of Jadavpur University, brought in a charge of sexual harassment against some hostel students. This was handled extremely badly by the Vice Chancellor of Jadavpur University, who seems to have advised her to stay at home, and to have rebuffed attempts by the victim and her friends to get speedy justice.

Second, when this resulted in student unrest, the Vice Chancellor chose a path of confrontation. Instead of recognising that the student anger was similar to the youth anger after the Delhi gang rape of 16 December 2012, he chose to treat it as a law and order problem, and called in the police.

As reported and claimed by students, including videos, this also saw non-uniformed people, possibly cadres of one particular political party, coming in and using violence. Several young women, taking part in the agitation, were sexually assaulted, and that by policemen. A good many students were injured, and the last of them was released from hospital only on 26th September.

Third, the Vice Chancellor, instead of looking honestly at a mass student strike that had developed, is party to a University response to a Court case where the University has asserted, with no evidence, that willing students and teachers were prevented from entering the University and taking classes. The media, by contrast, have reported a massive strike, not coercion on willing students or faculty.

On the basis of the foregoing, and on the basis of our observation that a non-party student movement has been able to generate support across Kolkata, West Bengal, and indeed among students across India, we urge you to:

a) Ensure that a proper Internal Complaints Committee, including persons enjoying the confidence of all the stakeholders, is set up at the soonest, so that the original charge of sexual harassment, as well as subsequent charges by agitating students, can be pursued.

b) Remove the current Interim Vice Chancellor immediately. Regardless of the final outcome of all legal processes, it is evident from the degree of anger towards him, that without someone seen as more neutral at the helm, academic normalcy cannot be restored in the University. It is not possible to resort continually to calling upon the police or seeking governmental help if an institution is to function like a place with Potential for Excellence, as the UGC has designated it.

c) Organise a proper inquiry into the causes and consequences of the police led attack on students, and on further violence and sexual assault on them.

d) Lend your authority to those seeking to protect women if they are sexually assaulted

Pamela Philipose

Prof. Tanika Sarkar

Prof. Sumit Sarkar

Prof. Nandini Sundar

Prof. Neera Chandhoke

Gita Hariharan

Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy

Prof. Anuradha Chenoy

Seema Mustafa

Sukumar Muralidharan

Prof. Nandini Manjrekar, TISS

Dr. Amar Jesani

Prof. Vibhuti Patel

Prof. Achin Vaniak