By Ila Ananya
After numerous protests in Nalanda University, Bihar, against a student accused of sexual harassment and interim Vice Chancellor (VC) Pankaj Mohan refusing to act on any complaints against the student, there is finally news of things moving forward. Finally, Mohan, the VC, has resigned from all administrative positions, and the student accused of sexual harassment has been taken into police custody. An FIR has been filed against him.
If you hadn’t heard about this so far, there have been multiple complaints of sexual harassment against the accused student, who would reportedly harass women students on social media and otherwise. He’s now a second year Master’s student at the university, and last month, a student body got together to file three formal complaints against him. The university’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) then called a hearing that the accused didn’t bother to attend. Of course the ICC ruled that the student should be rusticated, and made the recommendation to the VC.
Unsurprisingly, the VC did nothing. He reportedly told the students to have ‘faith’ in the system, whatever that means—only deciding to shift his hostels, because that would apparently make all the difference. It didn’t stop there. Then he incompetently said it was important to ‘protect the reputation of the university’. It’s definitely not the first time we’ve heard something like that, but it never stops getting infuriating.
It doesn’t stop there. Before this, when a student had complained about sexual harassment, Mohan had simply said, “The university is in Bihar, and Biharis are like that.” Not only is that terribly stereotyping, but neither is saying something like that ever an excuse for not dealing with complaints of sexual harassment—it implies that a woman is just supposed to keep her head down and deal with it.
Mohan’s resignation and the FIR against the accused student only happened after protests. On 28th March, a group of students had gathered outside the residential quarters of the faculty to protest the university’s inaction. The VC refused to listen to what they say, instead calling the police and objecting to their “late night protest”. On 29th March, students then marched from Rajpur bus stop to the main gates of the university, protesting.
What reputation was Mohan even talking about, if the university is covering up complaints of sexual harassment? It’s always a college’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for its students–why does it take so many protests for an institution to act on sexual harassment complaints?
Photo courtesy: Pinjra Tod via Facebook.