CHENNAI: The Facebook post by a US-based lawyer naming prominent academics from India's best universities as sexual harassers has left the country's liberal intellectuals divided with one group lauding the initiative, and another asking for it to be pulled down as it lacks 'answerability'.
The Facebook post by Raya Sarkar, a master's student of law at the University of California, Davis, and a Google document posted on social media named 75 senior professors from at least 21 universities as academics who used their position to sexually harass scholars.
The Google document has a list of the professors, their designations and a description of the victims' complaints. The names of the institutions included Jadavpur University, Delhi University, Film and Television Institute (FTII) and SRFTI, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences among others.
Many of the professors named in the post expressed surprise when contacted by New Indian Express. A professor of Delhi University who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, said, "These allegations are completely false and baseless. I’m going to file a criminal defamation against the persons concerned.”
Asked how his name had come to figure in the list, the professor said, "There was a sexual harassment complaint filed against me in the university around 2013-2014. I was accused of doing improper things in front of the whole class. However, there was an internal enquiry set up and the allegations were dismissed."
A psychologist named in the list angrily said, "Anyone can write such a post alleging anything. Would you believe them?"
Another, brushing off the accusation, said, "Neither have I received any enquiry letter nor is there any inquiry going on in Jadavpur University. I don't know why my name is there."
Of the 60 academics listed in Raya Sarkar's Facebook post, at least four were previously in the news for sexual harassment-related cases. One of them, a vice-principal of a reputed Delhi college, was accused by male students. Two are from Jadavpur University in Kolkata. One of them quit following an inquiry into sexual harassment allegations while the other was accused by a first-year student of molesting her.
Another one outed, the director of the Institute of Rural Management-Anand, was in the news when he was sent on leave after the management completed an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman staffer.
Liberal academics such as Kavita Krishnan and Shohini Ghosh who questioned -- in a statement on the debating platform Kafila.online -- Raya Sarkar's tactics of naming the professors met a barrage of criticism on social media. One comment read: "How come the likes of Kavita Krishnan and other staunch left feminists are suddenly (against) the sexual predators' list of university professors? Simply because it names men from (their) own circle...?"
In an emailed response to New Indian Express, Shohini Ghosh, a professor at the Anwar Jamal Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre, defended her reservations on the Raya Sarkar post:
"I signed the statement because I disagreed with the mode in which the “outing” was being done. A list of names contributed through the safety of cyber-anonymity places neither rigour nor responsibility on those making the allegations. Moreover, is there a consensus on what we all mean by sexual harassment? I raise this question because I believe that sexism in the workplace can be equally insidious and debilitating for women and this form of discrimination may not be sexual at all. And because it’s not sexual, it is routinely normalized. The trouble with a campaign of this nature is that emphasises sexual more than harassment in a way that all distinctions between sexism and sexual harassment are blurred."