By Sharanya Gopinathan
This week has seen massive student protests against sexual harassment, in two opposite ends of the country.
More famously, the students of JNU have been protesting against the lack of action against Atul Johri, a professor in the School of Life Sciences, accused of eight different counts of sexual harassment by eight different women. Students had been taking to the streets and protesting outside Vasant Kunj police station, as well as different locations on or near administrative buildings in the university, in order to demand his immediate expulsion and arrest.
Atul Johri was finally arrested yesterday at around 5 PM, and let off on bail approximately one and a half hours later. The speed with which he was released has sparked some interesting comparisons around other arrests and detainments in JNU, and paints a pretty revealing picture of the kind of opposition students at JNU face, and the clout the administration itself has when it wants to exercise it.
17 of the protesting JNU students now have FIRs filed against them by the Dean of Students.
Meanwhile, this week also saw over 600 students at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Kannur, Kerala, protesting against increased sexual harassment. On 15 March, 46 students complained to the college director about the sexual harassment, catcalling, molestation, stalking and cyber bullying both male and female students face at the hands of the locals of Kannur around their college. On the same day, 600 students took out a rally to bring attention to their woes, and to their college’s sub-standard handling of their complaints. They allege that when they complained to the college in the past, they would be told not to wear certain clothes and not to leave the hostel after 8 PM.
Sadly, the Kannur police’s response to the students’ protest has been acutely disappointing, and a repetition of the college’s stance. They requested female students to “maintain certain discipline and not go outside alone at night” (meaning, that the police refuse to do their job and expect students to police themselves instead by never leaving their hostels). The Times of India also reports that the general perception amongst police seems to be that the students of this particular institution (probably because it has the word fashion in its name), dress inappropriately and venture out at “odd hours”, which is why they’re receiving complaints from this college and no other.
So basically, hundreds of Indian students from all over the country have been protesting sexual harassment on campus and trying to bring our attention to their terrible plight. And so far, both the police and university administration’s responses have just betrayed these students repeatedly.
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