The internet frenzy over the Civic Chandran case has reached a new zenith over the two highly problematic — deeply elitist, sexist, logically and empirically flawed — anticipatory bail orders issued to the accused by the Sessions Court. There was a strange silence about the first one which was stuffed with elitist statements, and an even stranger pause over the blatantly sexist and conservative order before the active condemnation of the latter began to be voiced over the internet. Even stranger, because there is far more tolerance of elitism among the internet woke-folk than of conservative sexist understandings of the appropriate clothing for women’s bodies in Kerala. The three-day break from expressions of outrage did not, and still does not make sense.Continue reading When ‘With the Survivor ‘ Rings Hollow: Observations on the Rage over the Civic Chandran Case
In the light of the above history it seems no surprise at all that mainstream feminists in Kerala do not seem to need a critique of the punitive state at all. Nor are they really troubled by the withdrawal of the welfare state or its perversion, even in matters that crucially affect women and children. Being moored in it, even the withdrawal of the welfare state from even support services to child-victims of sexual violence (citing ‘convenience’ which turned to be ‘convenience’ for the government alone), and the stuffing of crucial committees dealing with the welfare of and justice to women and children with dubious candidates with nepotistic connections – has rarely excited significant united protest from Kerala’s mainstream feminists.
Indeed, in a recent case of baby-abduction in which the infant born to Anupama Chandran, the daughter of a local CPM leader, in her relationship with Ajith, a dalit man, was trafficked with the active connivance of child welfare officials, this feminist mainstream was mostly silent; many prominent voices in it were rallied against the aggrieved mother; some of them even participated in the unspeakable cyber-lynching of the couple, spreading rumours and making unfounded accusations. Though the large numbers of young sexual violence victims belong to the oppressed castes, and though the Anupama-Ajith case was plainly one of caste hostility and violence, these features did not trigger animated responses from the feminist mainstream. These tepid or hostile responses are in sharp contrast to the manner in which sexual harassment campaigns are conducted. Continue reading Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am not with the Mob — 3
In the 1980s, when the first feminist articulations began to be heard in Kerala, left-leaning feminists often sought to maintain a critical distance from the state, emphasizing its inherently patriarchal nature. This was not surprising as feminists of that generation had radical-Marxist roots or strong connections with it. Radical Marxism in that generation was clearly suspicious of the state – quite unlike the mainstream left.Continue reading Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am Not With the Mob — 2
I have never been a carceral feminist anytime in my life. Right now, there is a massive tide of abuse and misrepresentation of non-carceral feminism in Kerala, so much so that any suggestion of solutions to the problem of sexual harassment outside the framework of the state is immediately dubbed anti-woman and anti-feminist. Carceral feminists are so warped, they seem to be totally unseeing of the fact that the debate has always been about the significance of the state and its instruments in the generally agreed-upon goal of gender justice, and not really about who is the true, or truer feminist. Indeed, this is strongly reminiscent of the mass attack on the sex worker activist Nalini Jameela years back and the anti-carceral feminists who were prepared to hear her out and stand with her. I remain a non-carceral feminist, rejecting the binary between carceral and anti-carceral feminism. I refuse the insistence that proportional punishment is irrelevant in dealing with sexual misconduct. I refuse to see ‘Men’ — I will not buy the idea that all male bodies share the same privilege and power and hence must be dealt with in the same way. I write the following in this spirit. If I am banished from the feminist mainstream for this, so be it.Continue reading Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am not with the Mob — 1
Public Statement on the Sexual Assault and Abduction of a Young Woman Activist at Tikri Border issued on 9 May 2021
We deeply mourn the death of a 26-year old activist from APDR (Sreerampur) in West Bengal, who passed away on 30th April, 2021 at Bahadurgarh in Haryana. She was deeply inspired by the farmers’ movement and had gone to express her solidarity at the Tikri border with the Kisan Social Army who had been campaigning around Bengal from 2nd April to 11th April, 2021. As we mourn her loss, we are also deeply troubled and concerned on hearing the events that had unfolded during her short stay at the Tikri border.
Over the past one year, I have been trying to make a college in Kerala – in a women’s college in Kerala– take some action against one of their faculty members who rained abuse on me publicly, including a public assertion about his possession of a penis, at a seminar in which I was an invited guest. This happened in November 2019.Continue reading The gender between men’s legs and other learnings from a college in kerala
Guest Post by PRATIKSHA BAXI
The publication of a sworn affidavit by a former Supreme Court staffer testifying to sexual harassment by the Chief Justice of India has been treated as a scandal, whether the complainant was believed or not. And the subsequent events – an extraordinary suo moto hearing, allegations of a conspiracy against the independence of the judiciary, the in-house committee’s decision to exonerate the CJI – have evoked the normative question whether such forms of judicial exceptionalism are the necessary condition for judging in our courts.
Yet asking such questions ran the risk of being labelled as an ‘institution de-stabiliser’. The intent was to invent social consensus by deploying labelling as a technique of censoring and delegitimising feminist critique. Not so long ago women who challenged male authority were described as witches, today they are labelled anti-national, institution destabilisers, presstitutes or simply, left-liberal/JNU type.
However, whether one walks right, left, centre or zigzag, it cannot be denied that jurisprudential questions need answers beyond the specifics of this case. One would have thought that it is also in the interest of all judges to devise a procedure that is constitutionally sound and invested in gender justice, while recognising the specific problems that judges may have because of the nature of their work. And that the Supreme Court would recognise that it is in the interest of every survivor of sexual harassment, irrespective of ideology or status, to be provided normative answers.
We, the undersigned faculty and student members of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) who have been elected by the faculty and students of JNU to ensure gender justice in the university (2017), are shocked by the news report on the recommendations of the Internal Complaints Committee’s (ICC) for a specific case. The report published in Indian Express (13.12.2018) states that the ICC found the complaint a frivolous one after inquiry and consequently has recommended that the complainant be completely debarred from entering JNU Campus, her degree should be withdrawn, and that she should never be allowed to take up any course or employment in JNU.
As per the ICC Rules and Procedure, Rule No. 11 states the “Action against frivolous complaint” in order “to ensure that the provisions for the protection of employees and students from sexual harassment do not get misused”. It further states “If the ICC concludes that the allegations made were false, malicious or the complaint was made knowing it to be untrue, or forged or misleading information has been provided during the inquiry, the complainant shall be liable to be punished as per the provisions of sub- regulations (1) of regulations 10, if the complainant happens to be an employee and as per sub-regulation (2) of that regulation, if the complainant happens to be a student. However, the mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof will not attract attention against the complainant. Malicious intent on the part of the complainant shall not be established without an inquiry, in accordance with the procedure prescribed, conducted before any action is recommended”. Continue reading JNU GSCASH statement on ICC punishments for complainant
We, the undersigned faculty at the Jawaharlal Nehru University express our shock and outrage at the extreme penalties recommended against a doctoral student for bringing a sexual harassment complaint against her teacher.
According to a report in the Indian Express (dated 13 December 2018), JNU’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has decided to punish a student for allegedly filing a ‘false’ sexual harassment complaint against a teacher in what it has deemed to be a ‘frivolous’ complaint. While we are not privy to either the details of the complaint or the justification the ICC has for arriving at this conclusion — rather than simply noting the failure to substantiate a complaint— we find the severity of the penalties imposed extremely troubling.
We, the undersigned teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University, are deeply distressed to read about extremely grave allegations of moral turpitude against Prof. Atul Johri, amounting to charges of sexual harassment, academic dishonesty, and financial misappropriation. We now hear that seven women have made police complaints. Coming on the heels of recent media stories that Prof. Johri was involved in the forgery of assent by leading scientists in a signature campaign, we are appalled by the university’s silence about an individual that it has vested with so many offices. Prof. Atul Johri is the Director of the University’s Internal Quality Assurance Cell, the Director of the Human Resource Development Cell, a warden, and the Vice-Chancellor’s favourite nominee on several committees.
We demand that Prof. Johri be immediately removed from all these positions, as the allegations against him bring great disrepute to the university. We expect the university to take all the requisite measures to investigate the charges that may be brought against Prof. Johri and to pursue them to their logical conclusion.
As faculty who have fought for and long supported the GSCASH, which this administration has shut down, we are distraught that complainants have had to take charges that should have been pursued within the institution to the police, because of a lack of faith in the university’s internal complaints committee nominated by the Vice Chancellor. We support the complainants’ exercise of their rights to approach the police, but rue the fact that the illegal and immoral dissolution of GSCASH has resulted in a situation in which no aggrieved person seems to have any faith in the delivery of justice within the institution on matters of sexual harassment. This is the second such case when allegations about sexual harassment have been filed under the IPC, because complainants do not have faith in the autonomy, impartiality, and commitment to complete confidentiality of the JNU ICC. We would like to emphasise the complainants’ rights to approach the police with their complaints must be respected and protected, and that the complainants must be given full protection against victimisation and full cooperation by the university authorities in pursuing their complaints. Continue reading JNU Faculty Stand With The Women Students Of SLS
This post is not a statement from the Kafila collective, but my individual response to the news about the Ambedkar University report having found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. This response will also address some of the comments that were posted on the Kafila statement posted yesterday.
We learnt from media reports that a duly constituted committee of AUD has found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. We did not know about this earlier, as some characteristically self-righteous and ill informed twitterati assume we did. Those whose social concern and activism is limited to busy fingertips obviously have no idea about the processes that have been carefully put in place in sexual harassment policies in universities, which protect confidentiality primarily to protect the complainant. So the first we heard of the leaked AUD report was from the media. Lawrence’s own statement was then issued that says that he plans to appeal this decision. This statement too we saw in the media.
From enquiry to report to appealing the decision (which can be done by complainant or accused) – these are all established stages of due process that feminists have worked for decades to establish, from the Vishakha judgement of 1997 onwards. That judgement itself was a result of feminist intervention. I do not understand ‘due process’ as a technicality alone, nor do feminists in general who have worked with women and men complainants on this complicated issue, especially in a context of power in academic contexts. Continue reading In the wake of the AUD report
Guest post by LATA MANI
Political discourse in the contemporary period is by marked an affective intensity. Regardless of the issue an acute depth of feeling is in evidence. Righteousness, betrayal, entitlement, anguish and aggression suffuse arguments across the political spectrum. What seems at stake is not merely the desire to speak but to have the terms of one’s discourse deemed legitimate, to be understood as one understands oneself. The sizzle, crack and snap of rhetoric expresses the heightened temperature. One could credibly interpret it as the sound of an existing order breaking down under multiple pressures. This would however be a partial explanation. The surcharged atmosphere is equally evidence of the ties that bind those passionately disagreeing with each other. And therein lies a clue. Continue reading Objects in the Mirror are Closer than you Think – Beyond the Rhetoric of Otherness: Lata Mani
This is a GUEST POST by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA and RINA RAMDEV
The past few years have not allowed us the respite to prepare for a fight. We were perpetually donning our war-gear – often forced without necessary ammunition into a battle that raged through parliaments and streets and colleges and colonies and our doorsteps. There was no time to strategise, no time to theorize, no time to bargain and no time to compose ourselves for the next day’s onslaughts. And yet, the onslaughts never abated. The mundane was coupled with the spectacular, the anti-national with the terrorist, the intellectual with the condom-user, the dissenter with the stone-pelter, and the everyday with the genocidal. Continue reading Sexual Harassment in the Academia – What the Hitlist Misses: Debaditya Bhattacharya and Rina Ramdev
Guest post by R. SRIVATSAN
It is with a recognition of a failing foretold that I read the different posts, letters and conversations around the list (the unmistakable one today). That one’s teachers, seniors, peers and respected fellow academics have been named as having sexually harassed women cannot be digested without trouble. I struggled to comprehend what had happened and went through all the emotions of denial and outrage, followed by shock, acceptance and hopefully a slowly emerging wisdom.
It then came back to memory that I too have sexually harassed women on three occasions. However, I was in anonymous situations which were not explicitly relationships of power or authority. And I did withdraw an overture (or a pass, to call it out by its name) when rejected. Perhaps I have been cautious in not letting my shenanigans come back from the past to bite me. Or perhaps I cleverly chose occasions and situations that would not be traceable to me. Also, most importantly, perhaps those women who could have named and shamed me have been kinder and gentler than I deserved. Finally, if I were a successful teacher today, perhaps my name too would have been on the list. This response is based on the recognition that I virtually am.
Guest post by SAYANTAN DATTA
[Note- The author believes that the structure of language has mirrored the patriarchal structure of the society, and therefore they practices aungendering mechanism persynally by neutralizing gendered roots of some words.]
I write this from my persynal discomfort with Prof.Menon’s recent response – this, although situated in the ‘Name and Shame’ debate, doesn’t derive anything more than grounding from it; this response is based on what Prof. Menon writes in the blog, and my somewhat naïve, but absolutely honest thoughts about it.
Firstly, I would like to myntion my constant and almost stagnant disapproval of how our loci as feminists are suddenly becoming one of legal negotiation – I refuse to engage in such a form of reimagining of feminism that, as she duly points out, has taken decades to strengthen its voice. She, in her response, points at ‘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’.
The President of India
Banaras Hindu University
Sub : On recent agonising developments in Banaras Hindu University
We alumni of Banaras Hindu University would like to convey to you our sense of concern about the recent developments at our alma mater namely Banaras Hindu University. Developments which have brought forward the issue of safety and security of girl students on the campus and administrations callous attitude towards it. Continue reading Petition to President of India, Visitor of BHU from Alumni of the University
This letter is jointly written by the signatories.
Dear Mr Prasanth Nair
We, the undersigned participants of the 7th Queer Pride March held on 12 August 2016 in Calicut, would like to bring to your attention the unforgivably irresponsible attitude of the Kozhikode police towards the rights of young people who identify themselves as queer, and their allies. In what should have been a completely joyous event, their attitude cast a dark shadow, for sure. Continue reading Adventures in Creepland: An Open Letter to the District Collector, Calicut, Kerala
Yesterday, a young woman accused TERI’s Rajendra Pachauri of harassing her when she worked briefly as an intern when she was only 19 years old. When she resisted Pachauri’s advances, the woman says in her statement, her contract – originally signed for a duration of one year – was terminated in only 4 months. Here, we reproduce her statement in full – as obtained from her lawyers.
I have read the story “Rajendra Pachauri speaks out over sexual harassment claims”, published in The Guardian. I remember that in the third week of February 2015, I had read some news reports which said that an employee of TERI had filed a criminal complaint against R.K. Pachauri for sexually harassing her. On reading these news reports, I was 0% surprised. I can very much relate to what the other women wrote in her statement. When I was 19, I worked for 4 months (end of 2008) at TERI, as Pachauri’s secretary. Pachauri’s claim that his computer was hacked is totally false. From my point of view, this is right in line with his character, and not a case of his computer being hacked. I think it is important for me to now make my statement public so that people know the truth about Pachauri.
Here is what I recall from my time in TERI. Continue reading A third woman accuses Pachauri of harassment
STATEMENT BY CONCERNED CITIZENS
It is shocking that the Hon’ble Visitor appointed Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty to the Executive Council of JNU on 8 October 2015 and his name now features as a candidate for the prestigious position of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi, if this is accurately reported in the media.  Both these positions—either as a Vice Chancellor or as a nominated member in an Executive Council of a University—demand impeccable record of academic excellence and integrity. However, it would appear that a record of sexual harassment does not impact the process of appointments in Universities.
It is well known that a sexual harassment case was made by an employee of Gandhi Bhawan on 4.4.07 against the Director, Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty. The Delhi University Apex Committee on Sexual Harassment vide its report that was tabled and accepted by the Executive Council Resolution No 114 dated 8.10.07 resolved that:
- A letter of warning be issued to Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty.
- He should be asked to step down from the Directorship of Gandhi Bhawan.
- He should be debarred from holding any administrative post in the University for a period of three years.
Prof Chakrabarty was removed from the position of Director, Gandhi Bhawan, Head of the Department of Political Science and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences. Continue reading An Open Letter to the President of India – Please take sexual harassment seriously
Just to share with Kafila readers two wonderful performances against misogyny by two cool young women, Rene Verma and Vasundhara Kaul, putting down sexism with a light touch that cuts very deep indeed – take a look at the string of comments that follow Vasundhara’s performance , from scared and threatened men unable to deal with it.
These are already ‘going viral’ as they say – just wanted to add Kafila’s contribution to viralizing them!
Here’s Rene Verma taking on Honey Singh. Unfortunately we cannot skip the compulsory advertisement for Modi and His Technicolour Dream Coat That Costs as Much as a Small Village Hospital.
(Oh, okay, the ad seems to have gone now, but that coat – that coat!! Ain’t going nowhere, to use the slang of the land of Modi’s new unilateral BFF).
Here’s an interview with Rene Verma on The Ladies Finger:
I’ve always been invested in performance art and its relation to policy and society. My piece was never intended to be a takedown of an individual rapper or two, it was a beleaguered response to a culture that privileges narratives of violence, restrictive norms, and ideals of beauty that are often untenable. Pop music, and pop culture at large has been perceived as a sanitized area of operation, where anything and everything goes, but songs and the discourses they promote operate in insidious ways. There is a silencing of body diversity, queer voices, dissent, and anything perceived as ‘not-the-normative’, both in overt and covert ways. I love rap, but I often find myself confounded over the lyrics packaged within these catchy, and annoyingly pervasive songs. This piece was actually part of an inter-college competition where I was given an hour to prepare a spoken word piece on the theme, “Portrait of a ‘Lady’”. And I thought it would be nice to construct a normative portrait of a ‘lady’ through a rap parody and deconstruct it through contrasting voices.
And here is Vasundhara Kaul, telling “Men With their Big Penises – rahendo beta, tum se nahin ho payega…”
Guest post by PRONOY RAI
The serene, picturesque campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati has been witnessing some very noteworthy events in the recent past. According to reports in the popular media, a professor at the institute’s biotechnology department was accused of sending obscene text messages to his PhD student over her phone. Though the professor pleaded innocence, claiming that messages were sent from his sim card that was stolen, the local police found this hard to believe. The professor has also been accused of harassing the student during other instances on campus. Upon receiving the advice of the ‘Working Women’s Committee’ of the institute, the professor was recently suspended. This narrative constructs for us a simple, fair story of a just state-society system. A person breaks the law, and he is disciplined, as one would expect in a fair democratic society. If only that was the case.
The suspension of the professor was not immediately followed by the submission of the report, let alone the filing of complaint at the institute and with the local police. On August 13, Amingaon police in Assam arrested the professor for sending obscene text messages to a student. The arrest happened because the student had to file a FIR in order to request a telecom company to reveal the identity of the owner of the phone, from where the obscene messages being sent to her, were emanating. The delay in the inaction of the institute administration is unjustified, but perhaps not very inexplicable. Continue reading Storm in a Calm IIT Campus Over a Sexual Harassment Case: Pronoy Rai