From Feminazi to Savarna Rape Apologist in 24 hours

Two explanations before I begin.

First – I write this in my personal capacity. In this article I represent none of the other signatories to the statement that appealed for the crowd-sourced list of sexual offenders to be withdrawn, and for complaints to be followed through institutional mechanisms (henceforward referred to as Statement). I might still use the pronoun ‘we’ sometimes, please consider that a slippage; that collective identity is something developed over three decades in a movement, and I hope I never lose that habit. But this is my individually written post. Similarly, after the Statement, Kavita Krishnan has written on Scroll, Ayesha Kidwai on Facebook and Nandini Rao on  her blog, each expanding on some aspect or the other of our brief statement.

Second – the Statement was not and is not a ‘Kafila’ statement, it was simply posted on Kafila. Just as a statement posted on Wire is not a Wire statement or a statement on Scroll a Scroll statement, unless explicitly declared to be. Kafila is a collectively run blog with about 20 members, of which I am one of the founder members. Any member of the collective can post directly on Kafila without checking back with other members of the collective. We have often had robust debates among collective members taking opposing sides on a situation, and these debates have played out on Kafila in the past. Only one Kafila member is a signatory to the Statement, myself. I posted it on Kafila because it is a site which is my first site of preference, whether I am attacking the Hindu right or writing on feminist issues. I asked the other signatories if I could post it here, since I have to ask nobody nor approach anybody to post on Kafila.

Lawrence Liang is also a member of the Kafila collective. He does not ‘run’ Kafila (as has been alleged by many), no individual does. But it seems that in this new era of ‘radical’ politics, individual control and leadership of campaigns is assumed.  Further, Mahmood Farooqui too was a Kafila collective member. When a specific complaint of sexual abuse and rape was brought against him by a complainant anonymous to us, the Kafila collective suspended him immediately from Kafila publicly, pending investigation of the complaint. That was the only collective statement Kafila has issued in its ten years of functioning as a voluntary, non-funded blog.

About Lawrence Liang, we have only so far seen his name on a list on Facebook and on a spread sheet that is blank in the column ‘description of complaint’ against his name. Kafila is alert to the situation, and awaits further developments.

‘The List’

This refers to two things. There is a list compiled by Raya Sarkar on Facebook, which has to date, 69 names and institutional affiliations, with no other details of the nature of the abuse:

https://m.facebook.com/RxyaSxrkar/posts/1686281001419245

Then there is a spreadsheet, which has 79 names to date, but the Facebook post has two additional names that the spreadsheet does not have:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18TwXx50rzllrujA76i-r_qCvyxyh3z9nP84vAlnDG8s/edit#gid=0

In this spreadsheet, apart from columns for names and institutions of the accused, and number of victims, there are 2 columns for ‘description of the complaint’ and ‘resolution’.  Of the 79 names on the list, against 15 names the description of the complaint has been listed, 2 of these state ‘sexual harassment’ in the description column; others state molestation, rape, groping, physical advances etc.

Of these 15, 4 have listed the resolution – all 4 have been punished by institutional mechanisms.

In 1 of the 15, the description of the complaint says that the complainant, an ex faculty member, asked for their name to be taken off after being bullied.

In 1 case, in the resolution column, it states that a complaint has been lodged, but there has been no progress.

Apart from these 15 names, the remaining leave the ‘description of complaint’ and ‘resolution’ columns blank.

Both the list and the spreadsheet started circulating with rapidity on social media.

Why did this list and spreadsheet (henceforward List) trouble some of us who are in daily contact with each other either due to institutional proximity and continuing political work for a decade or more, around issues of sexual violence? The reasons were varied, but let me state my own reasons.

It troubled me not because there were names I knew on the list, but because apart from the 15 I have noted above, the rest were simply listed with no description of the offensive behavior, or act or acts of sexual harassment they are supposed to have committed. Even more problematically, the spreadsheet leaves the ‘description’ and ‘resolution’ columns blank for 2  names, Bidyut Chakrabarty and BN Ray, who have been found guilty through institutional mechanisms and punished. This places them on par with the other names with these columns left blank.

In an atmosphere in which Indian courts are increasingly referring to ‘false’ complaints of domestic violence, and ‘misuse’ of rape laws, it is incumbent upon feminists to establish to the extent possible, context and explanation around our claims of sexual harassment. These were the exact words we used in our Statement. Had the List been a series of anonymous testimonies providing context and explanation (as Christine Fair did, for example, in the article that Huff Post shamefully, took down), I personally would have celebrated it, make no mistake. Even if the List had simply described the acts of sexual harassment against each name, I would have thought it possible to help the survivor bring the perpetrators to justice.

(Since the publication of the List, three men named have responded. One of them, Benjamin Zachariah, has been challenged by a survivor with three specific instances of harassment or attempt to harass, which she spells out in detail. These, as she clarifies, are not incidents between a teacher and student, but her testimony certainly highlights behavior that may well be in evidence in his role as teacher. )

The sole administrator of the List, Raya Sarkar, has now said to the media that there is full documentation of each case, but even the nature of the offence is not reflected in the spreadsheet.

Climates of sexual harassment in the workplace

The Statement did not arise from the denial of rampant climates of sexual harassment, misogyny and patriarchal privilege (apart from other forms of privilege) in academic spaces, a situation that the signatories have spent all of their professional lives battling, from the time they were ‘young feminists’ themselves. We have all paid the price in various ways for refusing to stay silent or remain complicit with these structures; each of us has a combative history in our institution, organization or profession, and known what it is to face the wrath of powerful patriarchal establishments. Vrinda Grover for example, is currently in court battling a punitive criminal defamation case lodged against her by Pachauri whom she is prosecuting as the lawyer of the women who have charged him with sexual harassment.

The signatories to the Statement have in different spaces, struggled to establish transparent procedures for addressing this situation, procedures that give justice and security to the complainant, while ensuring due process for the accused.

Due process

Can the term ‘due process’ be conflated with the law? Not at all, and the Statement does not mention the law at all.

Due process refers to transparent processes of adjudication that can be established at institutional levels; it refers to a course of formal proceedings (of which recourse to the law is only one manifestation), carried out regularly and in accordance with established rules and principles set up in any institutional context.

Following the Vishakha judgement guidelines (1997), many universities worked to produce policies on sexual harassment and set up committees to investigate complaints, and five universities, as far as I know, did so. The two policies that I am most familiar with – Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi – arose from existing democratic politics in the university community. The Supreme Court guidelines acted as a catalyst to focus the energies of progressive political groupings on campuses as well as of individual teachers and students, on the formulation of appropriate codes and implementation mechanisms. The codes that were put in place resulted from long processes of mobilization and discussion at several levels, co-ordinated by people thrown up by the campaigns, often in the teeth of opposition from university authorities, but installed within university policy eventually due to the strength of the struggles. These kinds of movements are characteristic of university campuses in India, bringing together a range of political groupings over specific issues. They are anarchistic to the extent that the broad fronts that form are leaderless, they are an expression of direct democracy, and the very real differences in political perspectives among the constituents are set aside in the coming together over that specific issue. Such mobilizations are necessarily time-bound, and dissipate after some sort of resolution is reached.

The policies of Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are reasonably flexible and take into account local specificities and requirements. For instance, the DU Policy introduced a mix of elected and nominated members on committees so as to balance out the requirements of democracy with the fact that since sexual harassment arises from a context of widely prevalent misogyny and patriarchal attitudes, elections may well return candidates who reflect that value system.

I have elsewhere discussed at length the problems that arise, for a feminist ethics, from the codification of behaviour that is inevitable in the formulation of such policies, particularly given the ambiguity of what constitutes sexual harassment in different contexts, as well as the general atmosphere of sexual policing in India. Here however, I would like to point to the relative flexibility offered by rules and regulations (as opposed to Law) produced by specific ‘face-to-face communities’ of this sort. The definition of sexual harassment and the constitution of committees are fine-tuned to the academic context; punishments carefully graded rather than vindictively punitive, since making sexual harassment visible is also meant to produce new norms of acceptable behaviour; and the implementing authority is the University, which is susceptible to pressure from its community. The composition of committees reflects and draws upon the university community, while incorporating an ‘outside’ element through nomination, as required by the Vishakha gudelines.

In addition, it has also become clear that the successful carrying through of a complaint from its first being lodged to due punishment being meted out, depends entirely on extra-institutional pressures exerted by political mobilization, for University authorities are notoriously resistant to recognizing sexual harassment as an issue. These pressures include large-scale lobbying at different levels with the administration, publicity in the media, and demonstrations and protests, depending on the degree of resistance from the authorities. This kind of extra-institutional pressure works quite often because the target is an authority composed of members of the community itself, directly recognizable by and in day-to-day communication with the members co-ordinating the movement.

This is not to say that instances of sexual harassment no longer take place in universities that have enacted policies, that all such cases are promptly tackled, or that committees’ recommendations are always implemented. The point is that the possibility of justice is greater when a community of this sort works out acceptable norms of behaviour and punishment that are appropriate to it. More importantly, such a self-constituting community is more likely to be active and to be constituting itself anew constantly.

This situation was dramatically changed by the law on sexual harassment that was passed in 2013. As a result of deliberately distorted interpretations of this law, the sexual harassment committees of both universities have been scrapped and replaced with administration-nominated Internal Complaint Committees; in JNU recently, in DU earlier. JNU GSCASH is in court to overturn this decision taken illegally by the JNU administration, and a full- scale struggle is being conducted to restore GSCASH.

Why is due process necessary?

Why not just accept the word of the complainant? Because we all know there are complex motivations behind complaints of this nature, especially among students themselves. We are aware that sometimes such complaints, for instance, are the easy way out in rivalry among student organizations, or may be motivated by caste hierarchies or other considerations. Each instance must be investigated thoroughly through transparent procedures.

All the more so when the complaint is against a teacher, the generally hostile atmosphere is exacerbated if due process is not demonstrated to be followed. Even with all the safeguards in place in the sexual harassment policies of Delhi University and JNU, professors indicted by University procedures go to court challenging university verdicts, and in courts, if institutional procedures followed cannot be demonstrated to be fair to both accused and complainant, the university decision can be overturned.

Many of us (and not just those on the Statement) have followed these arduous processes for years, starting with the first visit of the complainant. Taking her through her options, asking if she would like to make a formal complaint, apprising her of  what that process means, holding her hand through the whole thing, using the mechanisms that university communities of teachers and students have put together over the years. These efforts have resulted in indictments and punishment in many cases. Throughout this process large networks of feminists are involved, from lawyers who work pro bono to therapists who waive fees, to people who offer their homes as safe spaces. All of this is done anonymously, as any feminist knows. While of course women warn each other in whispers about predatory professors, women (and men) also know the names of people whom they can approach for help. The first call from an unknown number, the email from a stranger saying ‘I need to see you about something sensitive’ – all of us who call ourselves feminist know exactly what I am talking about. And in many many cases, we have had successful resolutions, where the accused has been indicted and punished, or if that is what the complainant wanted, confronted and shamed publicly.

Additionally, an important feature of university mechanisms that feminists have participated in setting up, is that Committees are also sensitive to the relative caste/class positions of complainant and accused, especially if both are students, and if, as is very often the case in our heterogeneous institutions, complainants come from urban/upper class/savarna social locations and accused from rural or small town backgrounds. So sometimes, the accused, even though found guilty of inappropriate behaviour towards the complainant/s, is not punished, but sensitized as to appropriate behavior in university spaces, and I have known of genuine friendships resulting between former complainant and accused.

Most feminists envisaged sexual harassment redressal mechanisms not just as punitive, but also as instruments for raising awareness, much required by the heterogeneous nature of our student bodies as they enter, from varied social locations, the space of churning that that the modern university is.

There is another phenomenon though, that is difficult to capture in the frame of sexual harassment, and this is consensual intimacy between professors and their current students. This phenomenon must be named, and some of us have tried unsuccessfully, to get this done in our institutions. We have tried to set up codes of conduct that declare such relationships to be inappropriate, and as contributing to a hostile work environment for other students, but never succeeded in being taken seriously. But please understand what a tight rope this is. We are in effect taking the position that in such a situation, the consent of the adult woman to intimacy of whatever kind with a man of her choice, is somehow tainted, that her consent is not to be taken seriously. We have tried therefore, in drafting these stillborn codes of conduct, to focus on the teacher. To state that the teacher is abusing his position of power in such relationships, and more importantly, that the existence of such relationships produces a hostile work environment for other students both male and female.

However, such instances cannot be simply termed as ‘sexual harassment’ per se, and if we did do that, we would be exactly what most feminists would decry – maternalistic, sexual conservatives.

Our statement, couched in polite terms, was an appeal to withdraw the list and to lodge formal complaints, in which process we pledged our support, but the large part of the brief statement emphasized our recognition of the difficulty of these processes as well as the need to make them more responsive and effective.

Responses to the Statement and my counter response

Apart from overwhelming support for the Statement, which I will not dwell on, there was equally overwhelming attack. The mildest criticism saw it as ‘condescending’, or as ‘lecturing’, but in fact the Statement was simply taking the feminists behind the List seriously and requesting a rethinking of their strategy. How can an ‘appeal’ be condescending? Perhaps the terseness of the Statement led to this kind of reading?

But the real attack was a barrage of violent abuse by people calling themselves feminist, on Kafila of course, but all over social media. With these abusers claiming that the signatories to the statement (‘aunties’, ‘mother-in-law’) were using their ‘power’ to silence ‘young feminists’; that they were protecting their ‘own men’; rapidly, within minutes, we were ‘savarna’ feminists, daring to advise Dalit Bahujan women how to conduct themselves. We were hiding the connections between men on the list and ourselves; we are so powerful that we got the Facebook page of Raya Sarkar closed down (as it was for some hours). That our statement discredited the voices of survivors.

Sample this diatribe as just one example, and it is certainly not the most abusive we faced:

Raya Sarkar has been blocked from posting editing anything on Facebook and using messenger. Facebook has never been the epitome of anything close to fairness, because if you take off the veil behind a corporation actions, you’ll see who’s managing the controls. Which will lead us to why Raya was blocked and how. So why was Raya blocked? Raya initiated a campaign to list sexual harassers in academia, no matter how big the individual. Names which have been discussed for ages came out in public. Survivors reached out to Raya. Tempers flared, these men started panicking, there was a flurry of activity in the brahmanical caste ghetto. Soon enough, the savior’s emerged. The ‘true feminists’. They displayed their ‘sexualharrassmentcombating’ credentials and said they knew better than Raya. Words like due processes, natural justice were thrown around. These true feminists couldn’t even take Rayas name. They trembled to refer to her, they’ve only been saying ‘the list’. Of course these true feminists knew about what goes on in the academic space when sexual harrassment is reported. They know of the careers lost, they know of these khaps. But still they chose thier side publicly…What does this tell? Kavita Krishnan, Nivedita Menon, Ayesha Kidwai, Vrinda Grover, whoeverthefuckelseisonthatlist, we CHOSE Rayas leadership because y’all are part and parcel of what is wrong with the system. Y’all are implicit in the existing brahmanism of these spaces, so please step the fuck out. BACK OFF. Don’t you get it? The fact that so many individuals came out and chose to respond to Raya is because all your ‘hey I did this I did that’ is ZILCH. You did nothing. Your leadership is redundant. A new leadership has emerged. Is the fact that it’s a Dalit woman leader unsettling for you? Or is it that the fingers are on your men who you’ve been protecting for so long? Guess what, the fingers are going to point at more of them. The fingers are going to point at you too, at your hypocrisy, at your lies, at your BULLSHIT. We’ll remove you from this space and Raya will lead. No matter whatever the fuck you do. #unblockRayaSarkar

(from Greeshma Aruna Rai)

Nobody is a leader of the feminist movement, surely that is a basic given of feminist politics. But if some women want to accept Raya’s leadership, that is their prerogative. All the Statement did was “appeal” to this section of feminists to rethink their strategy.

And of course, the reason Raya Sarkar was not named in the Statement was because we thought the List was a collective enterprise. We did not know then what we do now, that Raya Sarkar is the sole person who controls that list, has sole access to accusations and evidence, and individually takes all decisions on which complaints to post on the List, and which to ignore.

Regarding the substance of some of these accusations against the signatories. First, there was no question of hiding our acquaintance with many of the men on the List – it is obvious that academic circles in India are small, and of course many of us have worked with, collaborated professionally, are in the same institution as, or are close to some of the men on the List. It was so blindingly obvious and such public knowledge that we did not think some sort of disclosure was necessary. Because our effort was not to protect the men, but to protect and strengthen the procedures that will help to bring about justice and change the sexist (casteist/English hegemonic/classist) atmosphere of the academy.

If we had been trying to protect the men, would the Statement have said explicitly, please bring formal complaints, and we will fully support you?

As for the supposed generational divide, this is an absolute myth. Apart from the sexism and demeaning ageism of terms like ‘aunty feminist’ and ‘mother-in-law’, in fact there are many, many young women who have written in the social media expressing precisely the position that our Statement articulated. Further, in a recent article by Nishita Jha, young women from several campuses expressed to her the preference for due process over calling out on the internet, and almost all of them wanted redressal on campus through bodies like GSCASH. But they were also very disappointed with the way these bodies have been functioning or defunct, several also mentioned that they are invariably co-opted by power. One woman mentioned that students from Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University and Jadavpur University would march to the University Grants Commission’s office in Delhi on October 27th to demand redressal committees like Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment.

‘We want one in every college in India,’ she said. ‘That’s how the abuse will end, not just for a select few, but for everyone.’

Here is Banajyotsna Lahiri, a ‘young feminist’ research scholar, writing on Facebook, (who incidentally, found the Statement to be condescending and patronising):

I have one simple question to the proponents of ‘The List’, what are we going to do next after this? I am not talking about preparing other lists; let us focus on this one for now. Assuming people named on the ‘list’ are actual perpetrators of sexual harassment, they might have a change of heart and rectify themselves after this social media outrage. Or else, they will get back at the complainants very nastily. Given our experiences, the latter seems more probable. The list has not given justice to anyone, it has only named and shamed people, most of them are highly placed and powerful…Forget about  justice, how are we going to ensure that the complainant is safe? How are we going to ensure that she is supported?

Let us see what GSCASH [of JNU]does. The office after accepting a complaint intimates the accused that there is a complaint against him/her and then they are put under restraint. The accused cannot contact the complainant, even through a third person. If required or solicited, the GSCASH can even put a physical restraint on the accused, and they cannot come within 50 metres periphery of the complainant. Both accused and complainant are bound by confidentiality clause to check rumour, gossiping, character assassination. Every time the restraint is violated, the complainant has to report to GSCASH and that will add to the offense of the accused. The quantum of punishment will multiply. The GSCASH, a quasi-legal body , can wield a control over the accused persons and stop them from intimidating witnesses or the complainant. Now does that happen so neatly in every case of Sexual harassment? Of course not. Especially when the GSCASH is weak, debilitated and not strengthened by a vibrant movement. Not when it is understaffed or infiltrated by nominated cronies of the administration and is not run by elected and committed representatives. But the point that I make is these provisions exist and being a quasi-legal body it has the power (once again on paper, but nonetheless) to exercise and implement them. If one actually do the arduous labour of running the institution smoothly and strongly, remain alert and build a political movement around it (Yeah yeah I am talking about all that we see in the pre-GSCASH election pamphlets year after year), then not only justice, but redressal, gender sensitisation and safety and security of the complainant can be ensured to a great extent. I am nowhere suggesting it has been achieved already, but it is achievable. The question however is, are we ready to say do hell with it? I am not sure….

The people who take responsibility for GSCASH do not have the luxury to move on with life with newer hashtags and fresh thrills. They work arduously, at times for hours, besides doing their own academic work. Have they done enough? No. Because we have not done enough. Beyond rhetoric and pamphlets, we as various university communities across campuses have not done enough to strengthen GSCASH and make it more functional, less bureaucratic and more vibrant. Are bodies like GSCASH a complete failure? Well if they were, the administration wouldn’t have closed them down in JNU. GSCASH was no gift from the administration too, remember? People fought, women, feminists, activists fought for years after the Vishakha judgment to get these bodies that are there in not more than five universities…

I for my part will henceforth put more energy and effort in building/ strengthening institutions like GSCASH, which can address the issue of gender justice and gender sensitisation more effectively. I admit I have not done that enough so far… But all of these only add to the list of tasks unfinished. Now, this list is really long, but there is no shortcut to struggle, there never was.

And on the other hand, many feminists of our generation (for example, Mary John, V Geetha) have supported the List, understanding the anger and frustration from which they believe it comes. So the generational divide is a misleading myth.

The easy term of abuse ‘savarna’ which precludes the need for any engagement at all, has predictably emerged as the overwhelming discourse now. Two of the signatories on our Statement are not savarna Hindus, but they are of course savarna by association, or can be termed as savarna Muslim and Christian. The point is this – how is our caste identity relevant in this instance? We have since learnt that the administrator and originator of the List, Raya Sarkar, is Dalit, but we did not know this when we wrote the Statement. Even if we did know, we would not have thought it relevant unless all the complainants in the 81 cases were known to be Dalit Bahujan. If this List was both run by a Dalit Bahujan woman and highlighting specifically complaints from Dalit Bahujan women, you can rest assured that we would not have said anything, recognizing that we had no locus standi here, as savarna feminists. We fully understand the politics of such a situation. But what we saw was a List that could presumably have been compiled by women from a range of caste and class positions, and the issue that stood out for us was male privilege and impunity in general and the best way to counter it. Not to mention the fact that we ourselves have pursued cases against savarna harassers all the way to the end.

Yesterday at an event to launch a new journal on Dalit entrepeneurship, I met a young Dalit scholar who teaches at Ambedkar University, Delhi. Dr Valentina told me that she fully supports the Statement and that she has written on Facebook why she considers ‘kangaroo court’ justice like the List to be dangerous. She has written in her posts that unless due process is followed, such lists with no accountability will soon be turned against men from marginalized communities. She has since been attacked as the signatories to the Statement have been. Evidently, being ‘young’ and ‘Dalit Bahujan’ does not save you from being pilloried by the self styled representatives leading the attack on critics of List-style politics. You have to toe the official line.

The signatories of the Statement are ‘powerful’ feminists? What exactly is our connection to power? Why are we ‘powerful’ feminists? Every signatory to the Statement has struggled to establish our legitimacy as scholars, fought powerful structures and male (and female) colleagues in our institutions, organizations and professions, and continue to be under tremendous attack from powerful men, institutional powers and the State. We are no more powerful than the women who started the List, really, not as feminists. We may have power over some younger women if they are our students or younger colleagues, but that is limited, and that is not the power that is being implied. Apparently we have the power to shut down a Facebook page, and despite our tremendous power, within hours, the page is restored? Do I have to state that we have no idea how and why the Facebook page of Raya Sarkar was shut down? Did they not expect that there would also be complaints from those affected? And is it not clear that the List too, has ‘powerful’ supporters who can also get it unblocked within hours? How loosely and meaninglessly can the term ‘power’ be used?

The Danger of List-style politics to feminist struggles

What then, is the danger of the List and this kind of politics, not to men, but to feminist struggles to name sexual harassment in the workplace and to attack cultures of impunity?

A mass, growing list that gradually draws in almost every left liberal academic/cultural practitioner (tellingly, there are very few, if any, right-wing names, even of those who have been convicted by JNU GSCASH), with no details of the harassment, or even descriptions of the acts, only confirms the general suspicion in academic spaces that women make irresponsible false complaints and that sexual harassment is actually a figment of the fervid feminist imagination.

In addition, in today’s political climate it enables the right wing to say that all anti-nationals are also sexual predators. See  for example sites like opindia.com, mandir wahin banayenge, and so on, clearly Hindutvavaadi sites, that ‘profile’ the signatories who have all taken public positions at various points against the RSS and Hindutva politics. Such sites, as well as comments on Kafila, imply or claim that sexual harassment and anti-nationalism go hand in hand. For instance, a news report that stated that JNU has the highest number of reported sexual harassment cases is often cited by the Hindutvavaadis as proof of sexually degenerate left politics, when if anything it shows the high level of awareness of the issue in JNU due to sustained campaigns over the years.

Further the list includes men actually convicted of sexual harassment, placing them on the same plane as those accused without any specific charge. Already, as we suspected could happen, one of the convicted men (whose conviction the spreadsheet does not record), has reached out to one of the accused on the List, with no specific complaint listed against him, a colleague who was strong and visible in the campaign that convicted the former, saying ‘do you see how we are unfairly targeted, will you join me in a legal case?’ Of course the accused colleague has not responded, but what such a list does is to dilute the gravity of actual convictions, and give those convicted an easy alibi.

The support for the List comes from the understanding that it is the anger and frustration of survivors that has led them to this extreme measure. Yes, this is true in many cases, but Raya Sarkar confirms that not all the complaints are first person complaints. One of the key feminist interventions has been to insist on first person complaints except in extraordinary situations (say the woman is dead, or in confinement), precisely to respect the autonomy and agency of the survivor. If others can take on the mantle of complaining on someone else’s behalf, even if she herself does not want to pursue a complaint, I do not see the feminist ethics of this. The point is to strongly support the survivor to tell her own story, with all the hard work (sometimes over a couple of years) that this entails. And I need hardly remind ourselves how third party complaints can be misused especially in this political climate, and at any time against men of marginalized communities.

I have seen Facebook posts that say ‘I confirm that I have heard that X (on the List) is a serial harasser.’ A second person says ‘I too confirm that I have heard that X is a serial harasser.’ Then someone else comes into say ‘That makes two people who corroborate the case against X’.

These attacks has now shifted decisively to the ‘powerful savarna’ feminists trying to ‘silence ‘young feminists.’ A Whatsapp message doing the rounds is an anonymous blog post that claims that Kavita Krishnan and I tried to ‘broker a deal’ between Tarun Tejpal and the complainant in the Tehelka case, trying to persuade her not to go to the police but to accept an apology letter from Tejpal instead. Interestingly, the authorial claims in the post are very circumspect – after saying Kavita and I did try to broker a deal, it then says it is not clear whether we did, actually. Then it produces fragments of emails purportedly from us, just random passages, that discuss an apology letter that the complainant could ask for. Anybody reading it should ask – are these genuine? Are they extracts from emails at all? If so, how did this anonymous blogger have access to them? How does what is purportedly said in the mails support the contention that we discouraged the complainant from going to the police when she wanted to?

Most sinister, what is the purpose of circulating this anonymous blog post now, when hearings on the Tejpal case are to be resumed soon, and what are our radical friends contributing to when they further circulate it?

Hindutva infiltration of the concerted attack on ‘savarna’ feminists

Kavita Krishnan’s older tweet stating that she intends to ‘name and shame’ and has no problems doing so is being widely circulated as evidence of her double standards. But that tweet was about calling out Hindutva trolls, the tweet actually ends with the hashtag # RSS Sanghis! She was talking about refusing to protect the anonymity of Hindutva trolls who have been handing out rape threats and sexist abuses. The avid participation of Hindutva trolls in ‘savarna feminist’ bashing should lead to some rethinking in the supposed feminists leading these attacks.

The most revealing indication that the RSS has infiltrated the campaign against the signatories to the Statement is in the article I referred to above, profiling the signatories to the Statement on a Hindu right-wing site. This links my role in a recent Selection Committee for faculty at JNU with my stand in this situation. Let me remind you that I was removed as Chairperson by the JNU VC for the principled stand I took in the Selection Committee against violation of norms and procedures in order to select a person the VC named as the best, despite his not initially being on the list of any of the three Experts. 

A person called Abhinav Prakash of the ABVP  who was not present in the Selection Committee, claims in my ‘profile’ that I  ‘created huge drama, calling Dalit candidate ‘worthless, Sanghi goon’ & what not. ‘ How does he know what went on in the Selection Committee? What has the JNU administration fed him? I deny these allegations entirely.

This was a post reserved for SC, all the candidates were Dalit, and there were several excellent Dalit candidates who were listed at the bottom of the VC’s merit list through a procedure that was entirely opaque to all but him.

If my stand opposing these violations in the Selection Committee is being brought up by a prominent ABVP functionary in this context as an indication of my anti-Dalit politics,  can there be any more doubt that the RSS via the JNU administration, has infiltrated the chorus of attacks against ‘savarna’ feminists?

The older ‘feminazi’ critique

Most mystifying is the complete reversal of Raya Sarkar and some others who took exactly the opposite position on the Mahmood Farooqui and Khurshid Alam rape cases. Some of the signatories to the Statement supported the complainants to go through due process in both cases, when they brought specific complaints of rape. Like Mahmood Farooqui, Khurshid Alam too was personally known to many of us. In both these cases, the feminists who supported the complainants were attacked from within left liberal feminist circles as feminazis who leap to attack men without proof. But our position precisely is that we do not demand ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ before we support a complainant through the process of getting justice, but we do expect to know the nature of the abuse that is being claimed. We know in Khursheed’s case that Madhu Kishwar had made a video recording with the complainant, and the complainant and her friends were ready to share it with the media before a formal complaint had been lodged. But when these people contacted other feminists, they explained why that would not be productive, and tried to help her instead in following procedures. Khursheed tragically committed suicide and the case ended. The feminists who supported the complainants in these two instances were accused of being feminazis and conducting ‘media trials’, which of course, were not at all in their control. Today, astonishingly, Raya Sarkar who joined in the chorus personally attacking Kavita Krishnan for being communal as well as feminazi at the time (and later, deleted those posts), now promotes naming of men as sexual harassers with no context or explanation. Other feminists who attacked us at the time too, are hastily ranging themselves on the ‘side’ of the List. Which ‘side’ has the power here, I wonder. And who is it that produced this attempt at dialogue, as two opposing ‘sides’?

Raya’s FB post yesterday and the annihilation of mutual trust

The most intriguing development is Raya Sarkar’s Facebook post yesterday:

If you are victim of sexual harassment go file an FIR (police report). No internal committee nonsense. Go straight to court. I will send you a list of lawyers and dear friends who have agreed to take cases pro bono (for free). Also go to savarna feminist lawyers/Action groups and see if they help you. If they come with rape apologia or sexual harassment apologia come report to me. Take voice recordings ( there are many apps on Android and iPhone). Dont tell them I advised you to do so. Take recordings of your perps too. Evidence/+testimony is key. Remember, Weinstein got kicked on his butt harder cause of voice recordings. Take a video recording. Even better. I Believe You. I Believe You. I Believe You.

Apart from the repeated invocation of the first person singular pronoun, this post is remarkable for two reasons.

One is the sudden leap from simply listing names, to urging going to the police and the law, the precise machinery that has failed us, from the point of not registering FIRs onwards. It is the police and the law that has failed us much more so than institutional mechanisms that have tried to set up new practices of ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ in sexual harassment cases. The current ICCs are deeply problematic, as I have argued above, but the struggle should be to restore GSCASH type mechanisms, surely, not to push sexual harassment survivors into the tender mercies of the notoriously  sexist and misogynist police and legal system? Of course, often we do have to go to the law as well, especially if the description of the sexual abuse fits the description of rape in the new Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013; in the latter case we have no choice in the matter. But what does this clarion call to go to the police and avoid institutional mechanisms actually signify? And how was this step backward taken from simply naming and shaming to the law?

Second, what is remarkable is how with a few sentences, Raya Sarkar has destroyed all trust within feminist politics for a long time to come.

Go to savarna feminists and lawyers, then

If they come with rape apologia or sexual harassment apologia come report to me. Take voice recordings ( there are many apps on Android and iPhone). Dont tell them I advised you to do so.

Record their ‘rape apologia’, then ‘report them to me’.

Raya Sarkar as the sole arbiter of who sexual harassers are, as well as who savarna rape apologists are. Is this the brave new world of feminist politics?

What will be taken to be ‘rape apologia’? The Statement we know has already been termed as such. But above I have also described the process of working with sexual abuse survivors – these involve long, slowly unfolding conversations at the survivor’s pace. In the beginning, and at various points in the process, it involves taking the survivor seriously regarding what constitutes closure for her. She may begin by saying I just want him to be publicly confronted, then later say I want institutional or legal action against him.

The opposite can also happen, she may begin by demanding legal/institutional action, then change her mind and want some other kind of closure. She may ask, what is involved in my going to the police? We would answer as honestly and as supportively as possible – that it will be gruelling, arduous, often humiliating, can trigger many feelings of inadequacy and shame, but that we will stand by you through it all.

Which parts of such recorded conversations will be selectively circulated as rape apologia? How will we ever again trust a young person who comes to us for help?

We have had debates and sharp disagreements before in the movement – criticisms of feminist politics from the point of view of the occlusion of minority women’s voices, Dalit Bahujan women’s voices, from queer and trans politics, between Dalit feminists and sex workers’ movements – but to date, these have resulted in shifts in position on both sides, genuine conversations; not this kind of unprecedented destructive polarization that the politics of the List has generated.

If indeed, conversations are to happen within and among feminists, it has to be from positions of mutual respect. If the first response to an appeal to reconsider a strategy, is denunciation and violent abuse that reproduces the language of patriarchy and misogyny, then to expect dialogue after that is somewhat disingenuous.

Yes, procedures and institutions have often failed us, but a feminist politics demands that we continue the struggle to make these processes more robust. Let me reiterate that I believe that testimonies are certainly a strong feminist strategy, but not the simple naming of people with no context or explanation. There is no easy fix. The building of feminist cultures requires taking responsibility for lengthy struggles, building of solidarities, rethinking of strategies from time to time, engaging in dialogue with mutual trust.

I am not very hopeful that the trust that has been so wantonly destroyed can be rebuilt very easily.

 

48 thoughts on “From Feminazi to Savarna Rape Apologist in 24 hours

  1. Nid

    Kaafila, will your blog of dissent and debate allow counter opinions in the form of posts and not just comments? Is the concern of the Kaafila collective/editorial board/what have you putting up these statements completely unfounded? I do not think so. Surely as with all issues there are 2 sides (sometimes more than 2) – each side with valid points to raise. To Ms. Menon, whether or not it is your intention I feel like I (and my brothers and sisters who took issue with the initial statement a few days ago) am receiving a scolding through this post.

  2. Pallavi Rao

    Please note that Raya is queer and would like to be known by the pronouns they/them. Editing this piece to reflect the change would be the decent thing to do.

    1. Nivedita Menon

      This post of Raya’s was brought to my attention by someone moments before your comment came and the change has already been made.

  3. Ajit

    Here ,

    “Today, astonishingly, Raya Sarkar who joined in the chorus personally attacking Kavita Krishnan for being communal as well as feminazi at the time (and later, deleted those posts), now promotes naming of men as sexual harassers with no context or explanation.”

    What kind of a feminist, that too one who resides in US, will wantonly use such a term as “Feminazi”? I think this is extreme anti-feminist language. This word was popularized by US Extreme rightwing shock jock Rush Limbaugh. It’s only semi-equivalent maybe the N-word used against Blacks.

    Anyone who uses such a word against women activists should be automatically deemed suspect unless proven otherwise.

    Someone who reveled in vigilantism by publishing lists of anonymously accused sexual harassers suddenly now wants the victim to go to police and record “Savarna Feminists” surreptitiously. This might simply be another front opened by right wing against left.

    1. jdevika

      I think the fears one had about Metoo apply to this too. In kerala it appeared in the thick of the campaign to free a young woman who had converted to islam who is imprisoned by her father and Sanghis, fighting against the silence and hostility of the CPM, when the metoo with its exclusive focus on sexual violence suddenly seemed to a good valid convenient campaign that united all sections of the Left , a perfect tool to smother the FreeHadiya campaign. I wrote my fears on Facebook even as I participated in it. Clearly, global campaigns have impacts unanticipated by their originators. And Raya Sarkar’s careless list is no better. Here, outside the circles of globally connected students and those in metropolitan indian universities, it is not discussed. I happened to meet one of the named, and he seemed so utterly contemptuous, certainly not ashamed. Academia here wears a very thick skin! The perpetrators of sexual harassment here need to be punished, it is useless to try to shame men in such deeply entrenched patriarchal networks, and if we can have any hope of that, it is only by establishing gscash structures and fighting to democratize them, not by sending the victims to the notorious kerala police.

  4. Shalmi

    You’ve elaborated some of the concerns I’d had when the List was first published — that in being undifferentiated it’s vulnerable to being discredited, and that survivors speaking through an arbitrating proxy is murky territory. In the polarisation that followed I’m afraid most people either misunderstood my points (I got a lot of unwanted approval from male chauvinists of the worst stripe) or chose to disregard them. The breakdown of trust and refusal to communicate between ‘camps’ has been disheartening, there’s allegedly been viciousness on both sides, and I’m not certain this article, as well-reasoned as it is, won’t add to it. Thank you for writing it nonetheless.

    1. Nivedita Menon

      Please go to the submissions tab and follow the procedure there. Your submission can certainly be considered. Sharply divergent views have always been published here. The piece is judged on its merits, not on the substantive argument.

  5. Z

    There’s a troubling discrepancy between the google spreadsheet and Raya Sarkar’s assertions on fb and in an interview. Sarkar claims that multiple people have named the same accused person, in a number of cases. Specifically, Sarkar states that they have multiple complainants against Partha Chatterjee.

    Yet, the google spreadsheet indicates 1 ‘victim’ against most accused. Ditto in the specific case of Partha Chatterjee (last verified on 28 Oct 7:10 pm IST).

  6. Shosha Schuldeiner

    But ms. Menon , why do you sound so crestfallen? Did you not know that this is the age not of protracted, complex, multifaceted struggles but of quick solutions?
    Did you think that an appeal to reason, to dialogue would be preferred over hectoring on the internet?
    Did you not know that Ad hominem fallacy (for instance, if nothing else you will be shamed simply for being older) is a preferred mode of attack?
    Also you sounded like such a green horns madam for talking about collectives, and introducing perspectives of others in a milieu where unchecked and grandiose claims to omnipotence are popular?
    The other day I was reading on one site fulsome attacks on Kafka for found to be possessing heterosexual pornographic pictures; on another, someone was calling zizek mad and anti democratic because he tried to interpret sympathetically Laibach’s performance in North Korea; on yet another site, there were demands for ending engagements with the works of a Nazi like Heidegger because who cares that Jewish scholars like Derrida and Levinas engaged with his works and all that matters is he was a Nazi sympathiser and that is all it takes to destroy the philosophical import of his work. Again on a BBC interview, I watched Alain Badiou being attacked as an anti Semite because he criticised Sarkozy’s neoliberal policies.
    To put it laconicly, no matter how logically you point out the contradictions and aporias in the attacks being made against you guys, all that matters is that you all did not support the list. If you asked for fuller testimonies, it is not because you all (and we) want to draw strength from and spread awareness through the narratives of the survivors, but because you are an upper caste, established academician who is too old to be anything but a moderate.
    I am like hundreds of thousands of women (and men) a survivor of multiple childhood sexual abuses and yet, even after ten men touched me in ways I found violating, and told me things I found repulsive, I did not assume that the eleventh man who sought my friendship to be necessarily a potential sexual predator. Of course, I was scared but I waited to confirm my suspicion because I just can’t make myself forget that Hume, three centuries ago, despite being a white male of the colonising race, taught me to be suspicious of induction, and value perception. But then, I have probably been interpellated into believing western doxa like logicality of arguments and affective potency of narratives. And to be suspicious of all those who assume mantel of leadership in causes which are about indivdual empowerment through collective action.

  7. Vrijendra

    Thanks, Nivedita for this long, much needed explanation. I am sure you have read v getha’s balanced and nuanced response. I have to say I was disappointed with the statement and specially with your name on it because I have known you and your politics for such a long time.
    I think, the statement was too terse, short and rather patronising even if it was an appeal. I think it really erred in underestimating the real frustration that many young women have had with due process regarding sexual harassment in institutions of higher education. Further, The use of the term due process was unfortunate. I mean, due process has a wide, common sense meaning which is so pro-establishment. Besides, as you know very well most activism and social movements are meant to challenge and expand the established due process.
    Finally, to bring in right-wing politics into the debate is very tricky. I do not doubt that right wing will use any opportunity to attack the left-wing radicals and other progressives. However, the central issue is the entitlement that men in positions of power so often take for granted. Unfortunately, the statement simply ignored it.
    There are many other issues that your statement touches upon and elaborates. But that is for another time.
    Vrijendra

  8. Dr Menon, I support the crowdsourced list of sexual harassers. I understand that the list is scary for its arbitrariness that it be curated by one person, but I still stand by it. I have no connections to Raya Sarkar and have not seen the Tejpal linked emails and I am here because I saw the list one night and the next, I saw your statement. You said you wanted genuine conversation so I am listing my thoughts here:

    – If the list makes you uncomfortable because columns describing the extent of harassment are blank, aren’t you putting the burden of truth back on the accuser? What if the person wasn’t interested in describing anything? Does that make her claim to abuse less credible?

    – With this discomfort, are you not reproducing the juridical logic of rape/molestation/harassment are not the same thing. Do you really see solutions to systemic misogyny in this kind of juridical vocabulary?

    – Your statement turned the conversation, which had grown organically from the #MeToo posts about men who have unabashedly got away with humiliating their colleagues, and repeatedly so, into a debate of judicial process. You say the list did that? No. Your statement did that: it turned the conversation into who is a better feminist, one who supports the list or institutional mechanisms like GSCASH.

    – I am amazed that you wrote the statement without even knowing Raya was Dalit. Don’t you think you should have done your research? Are you seriously shocked that there was a backlash? Why should the list have carried legitimacy for you ONLY if the list had Dalit Bahujan Names? The list did not name any of the signatories. It was a political conversation between the students and the profs who humiliated them. Do you really think you had the locus standi to come after it? If your years of hard labour as a feminist somehow gives you rights to enter any and every conversation about harassment, then you are leveraging those years as social capital.

    – As far as GSCASH is concerned, no body is denying the kind of work the activists, especially in JNU, have put in to sustain the committee. Somewhere, the Gender Sensitization part of it has been subsumed by the penal aspects of the institution. I have seen the pains that Committee members go through to keep the process legally valid. But I ask again, is that enough? A woman wins the case, the prof sentenced, and then what? Does the committee do enough to rehabilitate the women? What about their mental health? What about the sick mentality of serial predators? When is that going to be cured? Yes, the quick answer is ‘we are working on it.’ But do we really have time?

    – After all this, tell me which redressal mechanism is in place to tackle the top two names on the list? Will Chicago and Columbia listen to any of us? If shaming doesn’t work here, what will? And thanks to the statement, there has not been a single word that has come out of most of the profs on the list. They are waiting for the wind to blow over and then continue going to class, conferences, and pick up from where they started.

    – If bashing rightwingers was an index of how progressive our politics is, then there would not have been a list circulating. The conversation I was waiting for, is the unwritten power that erudite, smart, exceptional male scholars have, and how they exercise it in private spaces. The power that comes with being known as an intellectual man is almost akin to being a Harvey Weinstein. Rape culture starts with everyone in the department knowing that a prof is sleeping with a student, or that a prof has repeatedly misbehaved with students, but not doing anything about it. Gossip is the only way students get to know about these profs, at times, after facing an ugly experience. The conversation needs to be about this complicit silence.

    1. Another Anonymous

      Uff. Atleast read carefully what she has written. Amongst other things:

      -You ask: “If the list makes you uncomfortable because columns describing the extent of harassment are blank, aren’t you putting the burden of truth back on the accuser?”

      Even after it is clarified in the piece that it is never the burden of ‘truth’ that is placed on an accuser. It’s highlighted and all also. “But our position precisely is that we do not demand ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ before we support a complainant through the process of getting justice, but we do expect to know the nature of the abuse that is being claimed.”

      – You say- “Why should the list have carried legitimacy for you ONLY if the list had Dalit Bahujan Names?”

      Please read again: the author does not say that, she says that if that were so, then as savarna feminists they would not have said anything. She states “If this List was both run by a Dalit Bahujan woman and highlighting specifically complaints from Dalit Bahujan women, you can rest assured that we would not have said anything, recognizing that we had no locus standi here, as savarna feminists. We fully understand the politics of such a situation.”

      What is the difference? The difference is nuance. But why nuance when one can outrage instead, eh?

  9. tu

    When one identity is prioritized over other identities and when people indulge in stereotyping and essentializing terms like ‘savarna feminists’ come handy. But this is not a new thing. I see no scope for dialog here as one group has taken identity politics to its illogical extreme end. So it is better not to argue with them or try to convince them. This controversy may end soon and the damage done is severe. But has this contributed positively to gender justice- no, it has diverted the attention for substantial issues to binary questions (are you for the due process or not). Why is that despite all theorizing few feminists are in support of the list, are they not aware of the long term impacts of the list and the process that enabled it. What happens if tomorrow someone comes up with a list based on the same ‘methodology’ and has totally different names and institutions.

  10. tu

    “If you are victim of sexual harassment go file an FIR (police report). No internal committee nonsense. Go straight to court. I will send you a list of lawyers and dear friends who have agreed to take cases pro bono (for free). Also go to savarna feminist lawyers/Action groups and see if they help you. If they come with rape apologia or sexual harassment apologia come report to me. Take voice recordings ( there are many apps on Android and iPhone). Dont tell them I advised you to do so. Take recordings of your perps too. Evidence/+testimony is key. Remember, Weinstein got kicked on his butt harder cause of voice recordings. Take a video recording. Even better. I Believe You. I Believe You. I Believe You.”

    How can one take a position that ‘no internal committee nonsense’. The reality is different and if such committees are functioning well why they should not be used. Are there pro bono lawyers in all places. Handling such cases needs expertise in dealing with the system and the due process. It may be better to engage a competent professional lawyer with experience in this and concerned about violence against women than choosing some one just because (s)he is a pro bono lawyer. Post Weinstein expose the harassers and abusers also would be clever. They know that there could be voice recording.

  11. gone-are-the-days

    The wise thing would have been to have kept quiet about the list. But the ‘statement’ read so so much like good women defending their men against bad men. It is important that no man or woman get wrongly punished, which is likely to happen with a list such as this. But man! Such powerful men controlling whole academic fields and women who work with these men cannot be expected to surrender to due and processes. Let’s admit a simple fact too that only the upper castes control academic and media fields eh? So, the voice of Dalits were always suppressed by upper caste patrons and then ‘mediated’. JNU protests so called is the best example of the high jacking of Dalits and Muslim voices. Now, Menon Ma’am is attacking this MOVEMENT with right wing innuendos? Please understand that this is a new MOVEMENT and your days of power are over. Sit back and watch a new generation of lower castes and anti-castes take leadership. And Ma’am this kind of thing happens to all generations, that they got to be told sweetly that they are old.

    1. jdevika

      Yeah, and you don’t even have the guts to reveal your name as you deliver this profound announcement of expiry dates. I see that Raya sarkar is being cheered on by fellows who have been informally accused of sexual harassment. I have been trolled by a certain Samar Anarya, currently a human rights champion, but who was apparently kicked out of a student organization in JNU for beating up his girlfriend. Now don’t say this is a rumour! The egregious fellow has been utilizing this wonderful opportunity to get back at kavita krishnan. Another fellow egging sarkar on has been accused of both domestic violence and sexual assault!!! And many well known predators who are your allies are missing from the list. Sarkar claims she has received a lot of abuse and threats. Well, there’s a simple solution, their invention? Put them up as a list? And who can teach you anyway? Only fools who want to waste time.

  12. Kaustav Bakshi

    Dear Nivedita,
    For a long time, sexual harassment has not been identified as sexual harassment, and the complainant has been often silenced or bullied, under the pretext that some people suffer from a libidinal excess, and therefore, have the habit of preying on women. There’s nothing so serious about it, and can be ignored. On many occasions, genuine complainant has been laughed at as having no sense of humour, or being too puritan or stuck-up to take sexual advances as compliments. In a recent case, the director of a certain well-known institution has been recorded as suggesting senior male professors asking for sexual favours from female students was ‘normal’, and had happened always, and there was no need to take complainants seriously. Another senior, widely revered male professor, with considerable fan following, is known to proposition female students, with the patronising attitude of doing the latter a favour, and expecting them to be grateful for having been shortlisted for a date with him. Some of these professors have entered the grapevine of academia as ‘intellectual’ charmers having remarkable swagger to seduce women, and are looked up to with reverence and also envy by their brothers, who, as a way of paying homage to their predecessors, sometimes replicate and perpetuate this extremely ‘glamorous’ tradition of seducing and sexually harassing their female students. This is now an established tradition. And, it is undeniable that a homosocial brotherhood, premised on intellectual exchanges as well as discussions on achievements in bedding women and potential women who could be possibly bedded, often forms the bulwark of the hetero-patriarchal structure within which the academia is housed, notwithstanding many of these men’s leftist/feminist stance in classrooms or on social media or public spaces. I am not suggesting that women are not complicit in reinforcing this practice; there are several occasions on which women indeed are willing participants. But in many cases, they are not. They are helpless, powerless, and do not have the resilience to rise up to these men in power. We have been witness to unambiguous cases of sexual harassment across the country, and how protective shields are erected around the perpetrators, simply because they come of a certain class, or are close to someone in power.

    We should also remember, behind all the majestic show of democracy and fair play, we all are victims of an obnoxious feudalism that exists within the academia; in order to belong, in order to grab the limelight, in order to be ‘protected’, you need a pedigree. Your academic credentials may not matter in many cases. As a self-made person, coming from a middle class family, in which no one has ever been a part of the academia, I can testify to that myself – class, caste, location, sexuality, family name – all of these matters in order to find access to the academia, and be taken seriously. Yes, there may be 20 odd people who might not agree with this, but, it is a fact. If 20 people deny this, at least 2000 others would agree to what I am saying. Therefore, when it comes to seeking justice, in cases of sexual harassment, all these invisible factors should be taken into account. As a well-respected feminist, someone who I have looked up to all my life, I am sure you are aware of what I am saying. Whether it is GSCASH or ICC, whichever quasi-legal body is looking into cases of sexual harassment, sometimes may not even gauge the power of these external factors to which the complainant may be and is indeed subject to.

    Yes, there is this other side of the story. Complainants might often frame someone for the latter might not have responded to the complainant the way he was expected to. This is also a probability; there is no denial of that. Therefore, the famed ‘List’ may not be foolproof. But, somehow, I feel that this ‘List’ may be a product of pent up anger, of disappointment with the system, which has failed to advance justice to those who sought it. Collective anger and disappointment with the system have often resulted in complete ‘civil disobedience’, and the ‘List’ is an example of that.

    While I am concerned about those who are named in the ‘List’, many of whom I know personally, and have looked up to, I also have a greater concern about something which is plaguing many of us. What concerns me most is that is it ever possible for us to challenge and dismantle the hetero-patriarchal and a very potent feudal structure within which we function or struggle to function as academicians? As an academician, I have heard that my academic pursuits is not ‘serious’ enough since I work mostly on queer-feminist issues and mass cultures. Seriously? Can you believe that working on queer-feminist issues could be labelled and reprimanded as ‘frivolous’? But, yes, such academicians exist, and enjoy tremendous positions of power. Who could decide which are serious academic pursuits and which are not? Especially, calling queer-feminist research frolicsome is unacceptable. Imposing any form of hegemonic structure is a form of violence, which, we cannot contend, fearing harassment – not sexual, maybe. But, other forms of harassment which do not have such easy labels, and therefore, go without being redressed, procedurally or otherwise. I find myself in this peculiar cross-road, when I see a bottomless abyss ahead of me. While I cannot support the ‘List’ without having evidences to reinforce it, I am also wary of the system – or a conglomeration of systems, which, cannot always guarantee justice, for there are too many invisible power structures within which it operates.

  13. Ovi

    “Raya Sarkar has destroyed all trust within feminist politics for a long time to come.” ~ Nivedita Menon.

    In which world does Menon exist to presume that there was ever trust ‘within’ feminist politics? How can one speak of ‘Feminist’ politics in its singular/monolithic form? Sure if Dr.Menon is talking about savarna feminist politics, then maybe it’s true that Raya Sarkar has shaken your sisterhood. But if you think there was ever a ‘taken for granted’ apriori trust between DBA feminists/women and Savarna feminists then nothing can be more hilarious than this! It’s like Menon is negating a whole movement of DBA women which came to the forefront because one of the reasons was that Savarna women betrayed DBA women! One of the reasons of Black feminist movement is that white feminists betrayed them and were complicit in their oppression. Trust is a loaded word, Menons arguement tends to erase the differences between various Feminist standpoints. Might i remind that DBA feminists and Savarna Feminists have come together only on few occasions.

    And are you serious when you claim that Raya Sarkar alone is capable of ‘destroying’ trust within ‘THE’ Feminist movement’? Who are you to delegitimize Raya’s claims to be a feminist- are we now distributing certificates of who is a feminist and whose feminism is better?
    Are you not villainising Raya?
    Women and individuals from non-conforming genders have been historically targetted for being villians in great mythologies! Reminds one of the demonised Kaikeyis, Surpanakhas and Holikas in the great Ramayanas and Mahabharatas!

  14. Arya

    Women are like pure innocent children who have no ulterior motives. So if they say someone has done something against them, it should be believed. There is no reason in having due process and courts and evidence and all that. She is like a babe. Just believe her.

  15. suchismitaukil

    Did you mean Khurshid Anwar? A death that could have been avoided perhaps if some of us had been more circumspect.

    A well-argued piece, a better, more nuanced articulation of what some of us have been debating … but would it make sense to reach out to the other ‘camp’ for their side (without the jarring name-calling or terseness, and without an exhibition if possible)? I would be excited to see a reconciliation of sorts, and both ‘camps’ working together to figure out a solution that is affirmative and helpful and one that works. This discourse has now, while being useful to some extent, gotten reduced to online bickering (not saying you are) without any resolution in sight. Comments by the OP and associates regarding savarna feminism and the subsequent mocking were offensive, and reductive, as you have reasoned too, and anyone with better sense would ignore them. We know not to consume such unsubstantiated lists without a pinch of salt, and, without going into the ethics and methodology in preparing such public documents, as a seasoned feminist you know there might be some truth to it (re alleged harassers). And as someone with the kind of responsibility that comes with being looked up by young, old, ancient alike, it is up to you and the signatories, among others in similar positions of ‘power’ as respected feminists and members of GSCASH/ICC, to uncover these truths. How, especially when there are no formal complaints? Maybe a call to action, establishing better processes that are not tilted in favour of the perpetrator (a larger goal requiring systemic changes), gender sensitisation drives, lectures on raising awareness on SH and so on, which I’m sure are in the works. All one can do is empower people to fight their battles.

    I thought about how any action resulting from this armtwisting with the list would essentially set a bad precedence, but we all agree the problem persists. Not sure if end justifies the means … but if this spurs us to act faster then we are none the worse for it.

    But I do feel it’s important to reach out to them, and include them, too (the collective of women, and some men, working through Raya) as the named institutions’ anti-harassment bodies should, instead of being dismissive of them as trolls/SJWs/young feminists.

    My best to you. I hope we are able to come out of this, stronger and unified against the common enemy of patriarchy.

    1. jdevika

      Sujatha, I am told that she is dalit. As a south indian, i have to be told that because I have met other people with the same surname who have claimed otherwise. I know that can happen and that sometimes the same surname can be used by different castes but it is not immediately apparent to me. Some say she is a Singaporean citizen on a green card in the US studying there after she passed through india for studies in a private university.

  16. Rin

    Talking of due processes, will you reinstate Mahmood Farooqui on Kafila’s editorial board now that the courts have acquitted him? This, knowing well that the judgment was a farce and has now screwed up the fates on hundreds of raped women currently fighting their cases (or will fight in future) with the asinine logic a “feeble no is a yes” as a precedent.

    Chris Fair is in a position of power herself which is why she could name big names. It won’t be erroneous to guess that many of the accusers on Raya Sarkar’s List are students or perhaps junior faculty whose careers depends on the accused powerful men. How do you expect them to come out and make themselves visible? Even though Chris Fair is speaking up now, she has suffered through years of emotional and mental trauma leading to years in therapy.

    The point remains that you have disappointed by how you all handled the “List.” It’s funny to see leading feminists get all riled up by a young woman opposing them. It was utterly disappointing to see someone like Flavia Agnes support Farooqui through out that abominable rape case. Utterly disappointing overall.

  17. Pingback: Response to ‘From Feminazi to Savarna Rape Apologist in 24 hours’: Sayantan Datta – KAFILA – 10 years of a common journey

  18. Shrinidhi

    Singularly bizarre line of questioning. FYI asking someone their caste is casteist. How do comments like this pass moderation policy?!

    1. M.V.

      Shrinidhi, I don’t know Kafila comment moderation policy, but I assume this was passed because the Dalit identity of Raya Sarkar was central to attacking anybody who criticized the politics of the ‘name and shame’ list as ‘savarna’. The entire debate was shifted from cultures of sexual harassment that affect all women to savarna versus dalit bahujan. You will notice both in the abusive rant by Grishma Rai that Menon quotes, as well as in many comments, there are explicit references to Raya Sarkar as a Dalit woman.
      You do know who Sujata Gidla is, who asked the question you find problematic? Well-known author of the bestselling Ants Among Elephants, she herself comes from a Dalit family of Andhra Pradesh. Here is a link to her.
      https://us.macmillan.com/author/sujathagidla
      Now, when someone like Sujata Gidla asks this question, it rings some sort of warning bell. I am on Facebook, and I have seen Ashley Tellis claiming long acquaintance with Raya Sarkar, including knowing Raya’s parents, and he states unequivocally that Raya Sarkar is not Dalit. I didn’t know what to make of this, but since Tellis is also in Raya’s list, I took it with a pinch of salt.
      But suddenly I find that Raya Sarkar says on FB, “Please don’t harass me and ask me my caste. I am a Buddhist.” All right, cool. Except that I know many Buddhists who are not Dalit.
      Then I go looking for previous posts I have seen in which Raya has claimed things like “I am a dalit child of dalit parents who taught me to fight the savarnas”. Those posts have been deleted. Sayantan Datta started a Statement of Solidarity with Raya Sarkar in which he terms Raya as a “Dalit lawyer”. That statement has been deleted a few hours ago, and people are coming in to ask what happened to the statement, why has it been taken down.
      Now – how does it matter if Raya is dalit or not? Well, if Raya is not Dalit, that brings to a grinding halt the whole band baaja of the venomous attacks on all critics as “savarna”. Then the proponents of the list have to address the sharp and troubling questions about feminist politics that not just the signatories of the statement but many other critics of List politics are raising, without easy recourse to the always already unquestionable sanctity of dalit identity.
      If caste identity, like gender identity, is what one says one is, then that should apply across the board to everybody. Nobody should be forced to identify as savarna just because they were born savarna, right? Wrong!
      So, I guess I am interested in knowing – and Sujata Gidla is right to ask – Is Raya Sarkar Dalit? If not, why did she claim Dalit identity and then, when challenged, delete those posts?
      In response to Raya’s post that says dont harass me I am buddhist, some devotees have come in to say what does your caste matter. Well it was they who made it matter. If raya is not dalit then it is various savarna feminists in conversation about sexual harassment after all!
      I was struck by a comment to Menon’s post by Aprajita (above) that chides Menon for not “doing her research” to find Raya’s caste identity before posting the statement! Seriously? And then when Raya’s Dalit identity appears to be being disowned by Raya themselves, you claim caste identity doesn’t matter? Amazing lack of ethics.
      And if Raya is not Dalit, please can we address the politics of the list in its own terms?

      1. Ayesha Wani

        Thank you very much for pointing out the hypocrisy of the list’s proponents. Those of us who put forth hesitant critiques or asked cautionary questions of the list on social media were met with violent hate and caste-shaming – of the sort usually employed as diversionary tactics by the right-wing. The filthy retorts spewed by the likes of one “Rani Singh” and her ilk (on Raya Sarkar’s facebook page) derailed the debate even before it could begin. The funniest part was that those of us who were non-Hindus were also accused of being “Savarna aunties”!

        The only defence that the list’s proponents have of the list is that it was compiled by a so-called “Dalit” person, and hence, it is sacrosanct and above questioning.

        When the list first appeared no one knew if it was compiled by a “Dalit” or not, for the simple reason that the caste identity of the list’s author was immaterial! The names of the accusers were withheld in any case, so no one knew their caste. How did it matter if the person compiling the list were Dalit or not? Raya chose to identify as a Dalit at a convenient moment to thwart all the legitimate questions being raised against the list, and then backtracked for reasons best known to them! Really!? Is caste identity changeable?

        Aprajita and Shrinidhi, reading your specific comments on Raya’s caste identity seems to cancel both your arguments against each other, don’t you think so? Such contradictions are not limited to you two; examples abound in the farrago of distortions whipped up by the list’s supporters.

        If indeed this NRI person is not a Dalit after all, the onus is on y’all to scramble up a defence of the list and its politics purely on the basis of their “merits”, if any! I will look forward to that conversation.

  19. Panchali Ray

    Right. So I just checked that Raya has deleted the post where she claimed she is a Dalit woman taking on Brahmin men, something her ancestors could not imagine doing. I hate to question her on her caste, but based on her post, I shot off an angry email to some ‘older/senior’ feminists that we must take this as a historical moment when a young Dalit woman is challenging caste hegemony in the hallowed academia. Remind me again, how this does not put a spanner on the Dalit Bahujan Adivasi vs. Savarna feminist rhetoric that has completely taken over the debate on sexual harassment. While at it, please tell me how is it still okay to reduce those critical of the listing method to their caste locations which precludes any engagement with their concerns, politics, or misgivings?

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  21. Rajoba

    I have seen this happen again and again : known sex offenders are given high posts as heads, professors and vice chancellors. How does no body do anything about this?

  22. Rin

    Nivi, as someone who has been deeply impressed and influenced by you, your defiance, and your politics I would urge you to see this as an opportunity to join hands in solidarity with the accusers. It takes a lot of courage to come forward and take names of powerful predatory men. Don’t get caught up with ties of friendship and intellectual affiliations with the men on the list. There is great anger and it is important to channelize it into a right direction. People like you, Ayesha Kidwai, Kavita Krishnan, Vrinda Grover are powerful women; Raya and (most likely) the other women accusing don’t wield that power. Reach out to them; instill confidence in them to speak with you about the charges if not publicly. Stand by them instead of snuffing out their grievances. Don’t dilute the debate by quibbling over Raya’s caste and other issues that distract from the real problem. If there was a moment of standing by one’s principles, this is it.

    1. Nivedita Menon

      Rin, if you really have such a glowing opinion of me, please do not presume to advise me on not getting “caught up with ties of friendship and intellectual affiliations with the men on the list.” Both the collective Statement as well as the individual pieces some of the signatories have written, including this one, make it amply clear what the objection to the politics of the List is – and that is the danger to feminist struggles to name, identify and address cultures of sexual harassment.

  23. Nivedita Menon

    Significant developments have taken place, but I see no shift in the nature and tenor of attack on the Statement and on anybody who criticizes or asks for a rethink of the politics of the List. Raya Sarkar has now deleted posts claiming Dalit identity, and has come out with posts saying they is Buddhist, Ambedkarite and a follower of Savitribai Phule. All of these are chosen/political positions, not derived from the caste into which one is born, and available to all savarnas if they are available to Raya. Simply put, they was lying about being Dalit. A claim on the basis of which they was elevated to the “leader” (as some comments here devoutly proclaimed), of this politics of naming and shaming.
    Now that they has been exposed as a liar, (who first publicly claimed a subaltern identity they doesn’t have, then tried to hide the evidence of their false claims to Dalit identity by deleting those posts), suddenly Raya’s supporters/followers are asking us not to quibble over Raya’s caste and other issues that distract from the real problem.
    Really now, was it the signatories to the Statement or any of us individually who “quibbled over caste?” Or was our “savarna” location (assumed even for the non Hindus who signed that statement), used to sabotage any possibility of discussing the two positions (name-and-shame versus testimony/context and explanation/due process) in mutual trust? The vituperative attacks in social media, and slightly less hideous ones on Kafila all focused entirely on the supposed angst the aunty savarna feminists felt at losing leadership and control of feminist movement to lower caste women. This was specifically stated by many comments on Kafila, not to mention on social media. My question as to whether all complainants on the List were Dalit Bahujan, in which case the situation would be different, was mocked and misrepresented, and again and again the single figure of Raya Sarkar was invoked. This brave young Dalit woman. And the powerful savarna aunties ranged against them and against the entire Dalit Bahujan community.
    My honest admission that I did not know that Raya Sarkar was Dalit when we wrote the Statement was faced with the question – “well, why didn’t you do your research?” Hm. So much for ‘research’!
    Facebook posts have mocked us as ‘mature feminists’ asking women to keep quiet for the sake of the men’s careers! This is what has emerged from the Statement and our individual writings? Recently a Dalit site (velivada.com) challenged my clarification on Kavita Krishnan’s tweets naming and shaming Hindutva trolls who issue rape threats, by saying it is exactly the same as this name-and-shame list. Not so, because the Hall of Shame does not say what was done. Columns for “description of complaint” are left blank. Why not say in the column “description of complaint” what the complaint is? The Hindutva trolls issued rape threats, verifiable from their twitter handles. Kavita found out their real names and named them publicly. If you can’t see the difference between the two, it can only be malice, lack of understanding or outright support for Hindutva.
    On the other hand, Raya Sarkar famously blocks or deletes anybody who asks the most civil question challenging the politics of the List. Sarkar also posted a blatant lie (that characteristically, they deleted soon afterwards), a screen shot of which I saw, that said – “Some people on the Cough-illa list are accepting that some of the names on the list have directly sexually harassed them but yet there is due process needed for me to publish a list…” Are there no lies this person will not publicly tell, and then backtrack by deleting the posts?
    Dangerously, it is now clear that at least some cases on that List are of on-going investigations, and that the names were NOT sent by the complainants, nor with their permission. The on-going investigations – yes, by due process – as well as the complainants, are now under grave threat.
    I have also learnt that one complaint sent to the List has not been featured, because the powerful professor is not associated with left politics.
    I saw a post by Vijay Prashad who says that perhaps only Left professors figure on this list because there are greater expectations of the Left. That is clearly not the reason right-wing professors don’t figure here. In addition there are several powerful Right wing professors (apart from the one I just mentioned), who have been found guilty by institutional due process but not been named, while others associated with the Left from the same institutions have been named with no explanation of what they are supposed to have done.
    The glib mocking of “due” process, equating it simplistically to the Law, again is either malicious or ignorant. It is odd to hear self professed Ambedkarites valorizing kangaroo courts over transparent procedures and testimonies (anonymous if necessary, which I personally believe are powerful feminist tools, as I said in my post). And that too, a kangaroo court controlled entirely by one person, even if that one person was Dalit, which it now turns out they was lying about. Surely it doesn’t take any great degree of political understanding to see that it is men and women of marginalized communities and classes who will be the easy targets of such kangaroo courts?
    And of course, the leader of this revolution now asks women to go directly to the Law, not even the kind of democratically developed due process I described above, in which the law is but one tool. Talk of washing your hands of responsibility!
    As always, the very real issue of prevalent sexual violence and harassment has been sidetracked and sabotaged as it always has been by radical movements. Once it was Marxism and class solidarities that were invoked to simplify analysis of sexual violence and misogyny, placing these on a hierarchy in which class was primary. Now Sarkar has declared, having stepped back from claiming to be Dalit, that the only enemy is Brahminism. Savarna feminists should shut up, except for Raya Sarkar.
    I wonder in what possibly more productive directions the debate would have gone if not immediately sidetracked into caste identities supposedly borne by the participants in it.
    I have seen comparisons of the Slut walk and Pink Chaddi campaigns to this Hall of Shame politics. I see no similarity whatsoever. The other two were leaderless mobilizations, (and presumably brought in women from different caste locations too, if not class), but this one is founded on the recognition of One Supreme Leader. The other two fed into long term challenge to patriarchy and Hindutva, and contributed to long-term transformation. This List however, seems (even from its vocal supporters’ claims) to be only about the momentary satisfaction of naming, even without the permission of the women directly involved, with no expectation of justice or support to victims.
    (And again I say that personally, I support the testimonies that are now coming out spelling out the nature of the sexual abuse).
    To all those who are now advising me and collectively, the signatories to the Statement as well as all those who criticize the List, to set aside divisive issues of caste identity and start a dialogue about feminist concerns around how to deal with male privilege and misogyny and sexual harassment, I can only say, that is what we were trying to do, what we thought we were doing.
    What long term damage did the Raya Sarkar-led cacophony do, is the real question.
    And what happened to the issue of sexual harassment and violence in the process?

    1. Hello Prof. Menon.
      Firstly, I would humbly like to point out that I, at least in my responses, in my own capacity, as a student and aspiring to have some scholarship in feminist academia, haven’t questioned your, or anybody else’s feminist ‘credentials’. I have strongly maintained that there can never be one way of doing feminism(s). So, it is extremely disappointing that you and others have had to face questioning (and accusations) about your feminist loci. This harassmynt meted out is undesirable, certainly.
      While we can continue deconstructing Raya’s position(s) and the list as a motivated action, but not a documynt, don’t you think we are derailing the debate from the crux of the question? I have already pointed this out in my response, published on Kafila (link: https://kafila.online/2017/10/29/response-to-from-feminazi-to-savarna-rape-apologist-in-24-hours-sayantan-datta/), that this has to be very very less about persynal actions, at least in the gross scenario(s). We all agree to at least one thing, that sexual harassmynt is rampant in the academia and needs to be dealt with, because certainly, there has been a failure somewhere in dealing with cases of sexual harassmynt by at least the current institutional systems. We need to discuss this further, more rigorously, and definitely think of our activism(s) in this light.
      To repeat another thing that I have already pointed out in my response, we need to engage more over this. While you desire to engage, and so do I (I cannot speak of anybody else but myself), it needs to come from a position of hope that it is possible. We cannot attribute this list to just Raya, and attribute to her a ‘long term damage’; that shall make the engagemynt more sterile, and somewhere, hostile.
      Also, this is just my persynal opinion. I draw more from my concern about the feminist positionings than the gross value of the list. Like I said, we cannot restrain all discussion to just Raya and keep ourselves unengaged with the crucial question.
      I had planned this commynt before I saw Raya’s commynt. I would like to see how we all now engage in a dialogue.
      Best.

  24. Raya

    Hi,

    I am Raya, I’m queer, I would like to identify as a Buddhist and not harassed to ‘out’ my caste. FYI Sarkar is a very common last name in DBA communities. I do not want to ‘out’ my family to their casteist diaspora. I made the list to make students wary of sexual harassers by taking first hand account from victims. I did not create the list to discredit anyone’s feminist credentials but to point out the systemic failures in academia to address sexual harassment. However, this past week has been eye-opening for me. From rape threats to messages asking me to ‘kill myself’ from I’m guessing- sock accounts, to various forms of sexual harassment apologia. I never thought this list would go viral as I do not have a massive following. It was for my friends to be wary of predators. I have a collection of testimonies, emails, screencaps, recordings etc and above all I chose to believe the victims who risked their anonymity being exposed to express their jarring and traumatic experiences. Similar lists are being created all over the world- recently the right wing Tory party created one to make people wary of the sexual predators within their own party. Shitty men in media was created. Kevin Spacey exposed, Weinstein exposed. Yet, in south asia survivors are not to be believed. Neither am I some BJP member nor am I a reputed feminist of stature or a public figure. I am a feminist, and hopefully a principled one. I am a student, and I am a believer in survivors. And I will not out any survivor against their consent. I would have deeply appreciated if seasoned feminists would come from a place of empathy and not hostility, genuinely asking me or survivors in general what measures we can all collectively take, and must take to end this system of violence, hiding, fear, anonymity. Sad that instead people see this as a ‘turf’ war and my free speech is being gagged with threats of suits of defamation a colonial outdated law that needs to go. I am glad that many victims have come forward since then, myself included [ I provided evidence, screenshots]

    Thank you for traumatising me, thank you for traumatising the other victims, thank you for making students feel less safe. I will remember this. And don’t worry everyone’s feminist credentials are intact, after all y’all run the show.

    Best

    Raya

    1. In solidarity Raya. I wish these Kafila feminists with their social science degrees had 1 perc of the humility you have in your response. Instead they sound like chewing everyone’s head off in an argument. With all the theories what they just don’t get is that you took courage to stand with the victims, with no power of privilege.

    2. Meow

      Very interesting response.

      //I am Raya, I’m queer, I would like to identify as a Buddhist and not harassed to ‘out’ my caste.//

      If anyone outed your caste its you yourself. Remember that post that you made (now deleted) about how as a “Dalit” woman you are taking on the “savarna feminist/establishment” etc.? Now its strange that you are asking others not to “out” your caste.

      //I am glad that many victims have come forward since then, myself included [ I provided evidence, screenshots] //

      The screenshots that you provided of your conversation of yourself and Mr Tellis actually shows no harassment of any kind. It shows your willing participation in Mr Tellis’s matchmaking. The screenshots of that entire conversation has now been released in FB and anyone can read it.
      This raises question as to what you considered as evidence in putting people in that list.

      (Not revealing my name since I dont want to find myself in any Lists since I am unsure of your listing ability or criteria)

    3. Harnidh Kaur

      Hello Raya, nice to see you come out of the woodwork.

      As our self-proclaimed Messiah, would you be so kind as to look into the case of one professor in the Dept of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai, accused of sexual harassment? Please find out more about the case and get back to us at the earliest, will you? You do care about young students who face sexual harassment in universities, don’t you? You wouldn’t want any voice unheard, any victim silenced, would you? You do believe sexual predators in high places should be “outed” so that future students can take heed, don’t you?

      Especially, as in the case of this professor, where due process failed the victim! Would you believe it! This predator used his Dalit card to accuse the student of caste atrocity because she reported the sexual harassment he committed against her!

      Unless of course it is too much trouble to bother with regional universities.

      Unless of course, it matters only when the accused is upper caste.

      Unless of course, it was never about sexual harassment in the first place, but only about caste.

      In which case, my apologies!

      For I believed you, Raya. I believed you when you said you believe all victims. When you screamed on your facebook page – “I BELIEVE YOU, I BELIEVE YOU, I BELIEVE YOU”. I wouldn’t want to believe you would EVER support a sexual harasser.

      For there is no easy recourse to “Brahminical Patriarchy” in the confounding case of this professor – a Dalit predator in a position of power, abusing a Savarna victim.

      Tell us then, Raya, where do you stand?

      Best,
      Harnidh

      PS: I would have outed the name of the professor, but I’m afraid I don’t quite have you messianic status.

      1. Harnidh Kaur

        PS:

        I hope Raya, you wouldn’t NOW ask for particulars about this case before you take your stand on it. After all, you believe in believing the victims, details be damned!

        You have to state, plain and simple, where you stand.

        You wouldn’t ask the victim to reveal her name, would you? After all, you believe in the victims’ right to maintain their anonymity!

        I’m curious of what you have to say, since Brahminical Patriarchy cannot possibly have led a Dalit professor to harass a Savarna student.

        What will you now say, Raya? Your messianic status hangs in the balance!

        Thank you dear Raya, I look forward to your early response.

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  26. mandira

    Hi, the article is fine and debatable. However please allow some digression from the ‘core isue of how to deal with SH’ (was there one?). There is only one criticism against “y’al” in this interval: your knee-jerk legalistic ‘Statement’, simply as many have pointed out till now, because of its arrogant tone for a large section. You were unaware of this and now have to write this long rejoinder explaining and defending that, which anyway no one is in any mood of listening to. You were unaware of it, and this is the criticism, because all the signatories are unaware (and most of all, the one who must’ve drafted it, and one can guess who it is) of the current political ideological situation among the younger generation of activists (since the last 2 years more or less), because you are in many ways cut off from how the field has moved and lays currently.

    So one section (which is the majority, so there is hope actually) rejected it for its arrogant tone, and the other section, which is the ideologically coherent section here, rejected it simply because they were waiting to reject it. This latter section is the section of ascendant elites who are in the game to replace another section of the well-entrenched elites. The latter are suposed to be the ‘left liberal elites’ and the former cloak themselves in the hegemonic grammar of the moment, of an antagonistic fight between ‘the oppressed’ vs ‘savarna cis hetro male’ (with elimination or second-class status to be given to the latter at best).

    One refuses to take sides here though, because the grammar itself is completely empty sophistry. There is no connection whatsover, in fact there’s an active disdain, among (major sections of) both for the unwashed and the polluted, for a totally excluded section of the toilers who define themselves not in their exclusion but in their attempts to dismantle the whole and the grammar itself. While this ‘real’ plays out on internet and FB in particular, some ‘stooges’ (as in the current ‘discourse’) of whatever’s left of the ground movement, launguishes in State crackdown (as with Bhim Army), organisational breakdown (as with the Una movement) or personal long term loss. Not one among any of the new elites ‘claiming inheritance’ can be seen in these, though that need not be any criteria for judging anyone, but it is.

    Anyhow, apologies for the unsolicited gyaan. But here’s the deal with some of the operative part of the spectacle as many beyond the shrill see some random ‘evidences’: The discourse shifted from sexual harassment to dalit vs savarna within 24 hours, and no one really gives a damn about SH and the fight against it, since it was not about it anyway! Then Ms Raya, who might be acting in all good faith (ha-ha), deleted all her posts about being a Dalit (including a recent one where she claimed to have ‘taught a lesson’ to all big shot savarna males) AS SOON AS one commentator countered saying she was not, and the discourse swiftly changed to ‘don’t ask me my caste, i’m buddhist, ambedkarite and so on’. The DP also changed accordingly to Savitri Phule, as demanded by the social media spectacle. and the complicit core supporters immediately started Istandwithfalanadhimkana. All of this shouldn’t and would’nt have mattered at all unless ‘they’ (the new ascendnt elites) had not made it the centre of the discourse. Playing to the gallery, she swiftly also suddenly claims her ‘queer’ identity (one finds it strange how perfectly cis hetero culutral elites generally can ‘claim’ anything at any moment of their convenience, i guess that’s a privildge that these categories are made to be malleable to). One has nothing personal against Ms Sarkar but with the gallery which either kept mum or clapped again, because well, we are principled and have to stand with the underdog and the oppressed, or rather what appears to be so.

    But the unfortunate problem is that all of this is happening in the name of feminism and dalit politics. Yes this is what is ‘real’ we are told. The blood has been tasted with the ‘fall’ of Arundhati Ray, this is round 2 with the ‘fall’ of the ‘savarna feminists’, and the hegemony of the new elites is towards getting established, so we have to wait apparently for this great tectonic shift (sic).

    Sorry if this sounds like ‘slander’ and not very objective, but one has to take sides: so both the old and new elites can really go to hell on their own please, without taking the women’s movement, the anti-caste movement (or whatever remains of the evidence-based collective-body-on-the-line ways to apparent truth in times of hegemony of forever-relative narratives ways to indentitarian truths) down the drain. But then why bother at all, Click bait Post-truth is here to stay with a total breakdown of all sanity. So great, congratulations to us all, even as rampant sexism and patriarchy everywhere thrives in ever greater bloom with or without due process. And all the victims/survivors with the ‘300 messages’, and the system, what system, forget it.

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  28. Mandira

    Dear Inji,

    we have seen that your rationale from the beginning is clear: standing with the powerless victims has to be supported. That’s great, no disagreements here. But please consider totally evident evidences of how this intention has been clearly manipulated for exactly opposite ends.

    Let’s forget the ‘collateral damage’ argument, that some ‘innocent person’s can be unfairly in such Lists. Let’s just talk about those who would be ‘fairly’ on the same, even then one would argue this kind of exercise is totally and deeply damaging to both the victims and the accused. For the former, such blanket colouring of one’s experience of violation as ‘sexual harassment’ without any differentiation has the very present and real danger of retrospectively looking at one’s own experience in that light, it provides a definite pre-given category to box one’s perception of a complex real life interaction/conflict. Now forget dealing with such real complexities in positive light (such ‘justice’ was never even claimed would happen through any process by the List creators or you, except Ms Raya saying once ‘go to the police and I have big shot lawyer friends who will help for free’), even sense of closure that is required to cope with instances of harassment, sexual harassment, emotional abuse, rape becomes terribly difficult through such casual behaviour as this has done. And the same is true in a different way for the accused – he/she also requires a closure through repentance and ‘due process’s yes, or you would be supporting the sodomising and killing of nirbhaya’s rapist to cite an extreme instance; also just being condemned off-hand for some pre-given ‘powerful position’ (defined totally selectively also here btw) is not enough.

    Now to your basic argument, did you see any intention of ‘standing with the victims’? Frankly most saw none. How did Ms Sarkar even get the time to constantly be on social media trip if so many women had indeed sent her ‘stand by me’ requests? To even properly follow through and resolve with due closure one case of harassment requires a long time, at times even months if not years or lifetimes. How exactly are you following this through? Only one person from.AUD was cited as moving through with her/his case, and this positive step is precisely through the ICC there (which Ms Sarkar said dismissed saying “no ICC nonsense”) and hence ‘due process’.

    And when just one of the person on the list asks a fair question of ‘what are the charges against me’, your friend backtracks and says it is you who did it and she ‘wasn’t paying attention’, while you say you did it from a ‘data collection point of view’. I mean what is all this? Such casualness does immense harm to all the victims and all those associated and affected. One really hopes you see through all this sometime.

    The women who signed the Statement had had earlier said they would help in their capacity, tho it was dismissed and viciously attacked as ‘video record their rape apologia and send them to me’. Now, please tell us how you are supporting the victims again? Because people would really do like to stand with the survivors as many have been all through their lives with or without these attacks and counter attacks on discourse level. Thank you.

  29. Rituparna

    Story of two lists: one list claimed to be have been compiled by one person and when a few feminists critiqued, everyone is abused and mocked. That list had some of the people I know too. Second list, compiled by a collective of DB women, and people were ‘shocked’ because that had ‘friends’ and ‘comrades’ ( these are exact words said by people I chatted with) . Now there is silence from those who supported the previous list. Total silence. I tried having private conversation with those who supported the previous list, but I was answered in monosyllables . Not a single word from those. Both lists had friends. And I do believe that anyone can be a harasser. But I never liked the idea of the list. And I said due process not to talk about the legal process, but some process. Why is this silence now. People who loved debating and discussions are also silent. Suddenly the concern about mental health of perpetrators have come up. Don’t be so dual.
    Friendships of many people have been ruined because of this. In the previous list, we were told by some of the people who supported the the list that we should cut our ties with the ‘perpetrators’, does this rule apply for the second one too?
    For me, I saw how abusive some of my friends turn out to be and now their silence is killing me. Of course some friendships have been tainted for me!
    P.S. I support the survivors having being a CSA and assault survivor myself I know how traumatic it is. Anyone who needs support feel free to get in touch. We have friends who are lawyers.
    But perpetrators have a rights to defend themselves too. I say it for both the lists. I stand with what I said in the previous list. Both of the lists have friends. In matters of sexuality, sometimes it is important to have conversations beyond black and white.

  30. Anonymous

    So, supporter of list 1, V.Geetha is delivering a memorial lecture in JNU named after a harasser named and shamed, posthumously, in said list 1. I guess now that Ms. Geetha has taken a dip in the purifying Ganga of Raya Sarkar certified Avarna feminism she has cleansed herself of all associational taint. All hail the apotheosis provided by the list. Sab Maya bhi hai aur Raya bhi hai.

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