A Facebook post by a woman lawyer Raya Sarkar inviting others to name academics who have sexually harassed their students went viral last Tuesday, with 58 professors listed by name and the institution they serve at. Yesterday, yet another similar Facebook post has surfaced under the name Malati Kumari.
The post claims that the Facebook account was created by survivors of sexual harassment in academia and activist-circles. The survivors involved in the creation of the post choose to remain anonymous insisted on protecting their identity. The post carries names of several social activists and academics accusing them of sexual harassment.
The Facebook post reads:
We are sending this message to you with a list of people in academia and activism where there are concrete cases of sexual harassment against them. After we saw the list compiled by Raya Sarkar on Facebook, we were in constant conversation for last couple of days regarding the experiences in our own lives. We in this process got connected to few other survivors of sexual harassment in academia and activist-circles as well. A Pandora’s box opened. A solidarity and trust to share long-kept-secrets developed in a very close circle. But we also felt that the problem of Sexual harassment/predatory behavior seems so pervasive, so layered, so related to position of power that to express it openly becomes highly difficult. Particularly so, when the harasser appears as a ‘Messiah for the oppressed’.
We who have compiled this list are Dalit-Bahujan and like us, many of the survivors have come from small towns/villages/marginalized communities to these big university and urban spaces with lot of hopes. In these spaces of progressive activism, we have re-discovered our own personal histories of oppression, we have listened to these activists/academics and have idolized them and then the advantage is taken of that admiration and respect. Many of us have spent nights blaming ourselves at first, crying alone, submerging in a guilt trip. We thought, if we speak out, will not we dismiss the positive roles of these people? Will not the right-wing organizations or media or state machinery take advantage of that and victimize the accused person beyond proportion, keeping in mind some of them are already under threats and targets for taking sides of the oppressed.
But the experience of harassment corrodes us from inside. It corrodes the confidence that the world will believe us. We had no other option than to put up the names of the harassers in this manner. Most of them are persons with enormous network and connections in academia, political circles, media, university administration or even in the anti-sexual harassment committee (in case of JNU) and the past experience shows that identity of the complainant never remains secret. Let the floodgate open for the survivors. The Harasser should be named at least to warn the future generation of women. And the struggle should go on in other fronts. Some of the survivors are determined to initiate necessary legal action as soon as possible. We are compiling our evidences for that purpose too. More survivors may become confident to take legal steps and some may be able to come forward openly if atmosphere of support and solidarity is created.
With all the trauma, anxiety and the ‘anonymity’ forced on us by the situation have made us alone. We have almost no one to consult legally as don’t know that in the progressive lawyer circle who is with whom and who will leak information to whom. We are sending the mail (containing the list) to various progressive media platforms too hoping that they publish this letter and the list. We could not put the letter/list from our Facebook accounts to maintain our anonymity. But you can.