Visva-Bharati students protest against sexual harassment by faculty
Three research scholars and a postgraduate student of Visva-Bharati , West Bengal’s only central university, on Monday held a hunger strike to protest against alleged sexual harassment by a professor.
Three research scholars and a postgraduate student of Visva-Bharati , West Bengal’s only central university, on Monday held a hunger strike to protest against alleged sexual harassment by a professor, the third such complaint against a member of the faculty in the last three months.
The authorities said a probe into the allegation was underway.
The four women staged a hunger strike for a day, with their faces covered, alleging sexual harassment by a professor ofthe anthropology department. They alleged they filed around 20 complaints with the authorities since March 2021 but in vain.
One of the research scholars alleged she “faced harassment since 2018”. “In 2021, the professor stopped the fellowship stipend I am entitled to as a Ph.D scholar. In January 2023, he directly made an indecent proposal. I complained to the vice-chancellor. The university’s internal complaints committee (ICC) called the three of us (research scholars) separately and recorded our statements but the fourth complainant (the postgraduate student) has not been summoned yet,” the woman said, seeking anonymity.
The students said they sent an email to the office of the registrar on August 18, saying they would hold a peaceful protest on Monday, and would subsequently approach the police, courts, the National Commission for Women and the office of the Prime Minister, who is the chancellor of the university.
“The moment we filed the first complaint, the harassment had become a daily ordeal for us but we kept patience and hoped that the university administration would act. We are scared of our life and safety. We also came to know that he (the accused) started character assassination and spreading rumours to outrage our modesty…,” the email, seen by HT, said.
HT reached out to the anthropology professor for a comment but could not get one immediately. Vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty did not interact with the media either.
However, university spokesperson Mahua Banerjee said: “The ICC follows a procedure. It has done a part of its job. It cannot pass a judgment by hearing only one side. The professor has submitted a written reply to the committee. The committee will call him after studying it.”
The latest allegation comes days after an anonymous social media post levelled charges against an unnamed professor of another department.
The post on Facebook, on August 11, was reportedly by a woman who claimed to be a first-year postgraduate student at the university. In her post on a Facebook group, VB Confessions, the student alleged she was “physically and mentally tortured by multiple teachers” of her department, after she entered the second year of a three-year undergraduate course.
The varsity, in a statement on August 13, denied the allegations and called it a “fabricated story”, but a member of the faculty filed a police complaint against three people, including vice-chancellor Chakrabarty, for showing laxity in the matter.
On August 14, Chakrabarty held a hunger strike for nine hours on the campus, condemning what he called a social media campaign against the university.
On June 3, a professor from the education departmen, Rajarshi Roy, was arrested on the basis of a complaint by a woman working on a Ph.D thesis under his guidance since 2016. In her complaint, the woman alleged she was sexually harassed since 2016.
In this case, spokesperson Banerjee said the sexual harassment committee conducted a thorough inquiry and has submitted its report to the authorities. Till now, no administrative action has been taken against him.