HYDERABAD: Law student Raya Sarkar, who published a crowd-sourced list naming alleged sexual harassers from the academic circle and who has been heralded as the founder of the #MeToo movement in India hoped that the current movement could include Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi women in it.
Speaking to Express, Sarkar said, “Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi (DBA) women have the least access to justice and often face intense hostility from the Savarna community when they attempt to take due process measures or expose predators. The movement does not represent DBA women yet. I hope as a community we can build more resources and support for the most vulnerable and marginalised. Any campaign should not treat the most vulnerable as just an afterthought,” she said.
Till now, the #MeToo movement in the country has been an urban phenomenon. Professionals who have been outed are mostly from English media houses, advertising companies, national NGOs and other bodies. Sarkar said, “I think it has potential to spread to regional spaces but frameworks do not exist to support and protect survivors there. Exposing a predator is more difficult when one does not have resources, aid or support systems to help and protect them in the aftermath.”
Last year in October, a law student from University of California uploaded a Facebook post naming at least 70 professors from colleges/universities such as Jadavpur University, Delhi University, English and Foreign Languages Univeristy - Hyderabad as sexual harassers. One of the named is a leading political theorist from Centre for Studies in Social Sciences.
The post had caused a furore on social media. While some lauded Sarkar for her initiative, there were a strong group of people who had critcised her. Activists like Kavita Krishnan, Ayesha Kidwai and others had said that her post had “delegitimised the work of feminists”. The same activists now support the current #MeToo movement — which has irked some.
Sarkar said, “I think it is hypocritical of them to condemn the list last year, but support allegations this year. The list had included many names of their friends and colleagues.”
Despite the traction on social media and mainstream media, the movement that spurned out from the “list of sexual harassers in academics” (LoSHA), had fizzled out after a time. It was only a year later with the Brett Kavanaugh-Christine Blasey Ford controversy raging in USA that the #MeToo movement again hit the Indian shores. Sarkar reasoned that her movement might have fizzled out because she was not a “Brahmin heterosexual”. “Many had mocked LoSHA and condemned it.
It is why others were apprehensive to expose predators, I think. Comparing responses to both makes an interesting case study. Maybe I was not considered reliable because I am not a Brahmin heterosexual,” Sarkar told Express over email.
She also urged for better enforcement of sexual harassment laws and also setting up of tribunals for women in the informal sector. “I would like to see schools and workplaces having functional ICCs. Many people don’t know what consent means and it’s scope — members of the ICC panels need to be educated about this.”