Can VC afford to remain in denial?

Shubham Sharma GOlden yug
[ May 30, 2017 ] At best, the Jammu University is ill-equipped to deal with cases of sexual harassment; at worst, the varsity is sweeping under the carpet a growing endemic on campus grounds. It is a established fact that the freedom to teach and to learn is inseparable from the maintenance of a safe and hospitable learning environment. National attention has recently turned to sexual violence and the problems it poses for the classroom, campus, and community. Whereas the prevention and management of sexual-harassment incidents are generally considered to fall within the purview of campus policy and procedures, incidents of sexual violence and sexual assault may constitute criminal offenses, and police involvement. Studies of campus sexual assault indicate that many perhaps most assaults and attempted assaults are never reported or, if reported, not consistently counted as official. The consequences of sexual assault are potentially very serious. Beyond their destructive effects on individuals, incidents of sexual assault may have negative consequences for colleges and universities. First, they harm the institution’s educational mission by undermining the safe and hospitable learning environment necessary for learning and teaching. Second, they cast doubt on stated commitments by campus leaders to end campus violence.At a time, when the centre and state government celebrating three years of Modi’s government claiming that revolution has come with the policies and programs of the government and when Jammu and Kashmir government is being run by women Chief Minister, sexual harassment with a female student at the university level is not only unfortunate but painful also. It deserves mentioning here that such incidents at the university level speaks volume of law and order situation in state. Sonam (name changed) is a student from Jammu, who, in 2015 joined the Masters of Computer Application (MCA) at University of Jammu and May 2017 her academic life became a nightmare. Her Assistant Professor Dr. Shubhnandan Singh Jamwal, molested her in his chamber. According to her, he sexually harassed her by touching her body parts.This brave girl student of Jammu University, has complaint at Dean Students Welfare and Committee against Sexual Harassment alleging that her professor Dr. Shubhnandan Singh Jamwal had sexually harassed her.The student of MCA department has also alleged that the Dean Students Welfare and the Vice Chancellor took the professor"s side when they were informed about the crime.The management has failed to take action against the professor despite receiving complaint from the female students.New admissions will be starting from next month in Jammu University. Jammu University is one of the most prestigious institutions, a most-desired destination for students and teachers alike. It must be remembered that sexual harassment at workplace flows from power. A man who has power over a woman (a teacher over a student, a PhD supervisor over a student, a boss over an employee and so on) can use it to subject her to unwanted sexual attention. If she objects or complains, he can use his power to harm her studies or her career. As ,in this case the Assistant Professor controls access to the practical marks , the content and quality of recommendations for research programmes and jobs, and the life of one’s degree is quite literally in their hands. If a Professor uses that power to demand sexual favours, it is nightmares for the student.What is worse, institutions, instead of defending the rights of women to a safe workplace free of fear and harassment, support and protects the perpetrator, and isolate the complainant, accusing her of "giving the institution a bad name".This is not the first incident in Jammu University. University administration was never serious, when it comes to deal with such type of incidents. The university does not have proper rules in place to deal with complaints of such nature.University has to keep in mind that if they don’t take any action in an appropriate manner in such matters they are directly violating the Supreme Courts directives and orders that Jammu University need to be strictly followed like law. In view of this it becomes necessary to know about all the directives given by the Supreme Court to the Central and the State Governments and to all the Universities and other institutions to take positive and concrete steps in this regard.What Sonam (name changed) is facing is appalling. Students who study in Jammu University today, or are seeking admission, need to speak up in support of Sonam’s struggle for justice – because if you don’t speak up today, who will speak up for you tomorrow when you might be at the receiving end?VC must take a final call only after ascertaining all facts. "You can"t deny the possibility of the complaint being a bogus one. If the Professor is found guilty, JU must see to it that such elements do not stay in University and vitiate the atmosphere. Earlier also an FIR alleging molestation was filed on December 26 against Bhupesh Khajuria, the head of the Forensic Department in Jammu"s Government Medical College. The complaint, lodged under Section 354 of the RPC, alleged that the professor sexually harassed a Ladakhi student. Despite this grave allegation against him, Khajuria has faced no punishment, and is still being backed by the government and hospital authorities who also run the college. Barring bailable arrest and temporary suspension, no action was taken against the accused professor. Indian laws were strengthened after the horrific gang rape of a paramedical student in Delhi in 2012. The ambit of IPC Section 354 under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, or the `Nirbhaya Act," was widened to make unwelcome physical contact, sexually coloured remarks, voyeurism and stalking punishable offences. There is a valid argument to be made about woefully inadequate public services fuelling the crisis. Inadequate forensic labs, dysfunctional police training colleges, corruption and a lack of sensitization are key among factors that exacerbate an institutional apathy that victimizes the victim. India prides itself as a child-friendly country where within families; members of the immediate and extended family are believed to view children as a prime source of their family’s joy. But statistics suggest that the home is where the Indian child and woman is most unsafe. A society that fails its children, has failed entirely. India cannot afford to remain in denial about child sexual abuse any longer. Corrective measures are essential. But shrill chants on the streets in themselves will not herald the urgent change needed. Change has to start with the mindset in every Indian home.