• Condemn Harassment of Professor Nivedita Menon by JNU administration

    An open letter to the President of India

    Activists and academics

    August 24, 2017

    Image Courtesy: Indipost


    We, the undersigned women’s rights groups, activists and academics, are shocked to learn that the JNU administration has adopted a biased and mala fide procedure to institute an enquiry against Professor Nivedita Menon, eminent academic and well-known feminist who is Chairperson of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Thought at the School of International Studies, JNU. We are appalled to learn that Professor Bidyut Chakrabarti has been appointed as the head of the inquiry committee against Nivedita Menon, even though it has been brought to the notice of the administration that Prof. Menon in 2007 had deposed before the committee against Prof. Chakrabarti in an inquiry in a sexual harassment complaint at Delhi University. The appointment of Professor Chakrabarti (who is an external member of JNU’s Executive Council) as head of an enquiry committee against Professor Menon, who testified against him earlier, reeks of bias amounting to a breach of Professor Menon’s right to a fair and impartial inquiry.

    It is shocking that members of JNU’s Academic Council first learnt about this inquiry committee constituted by the Executive Council in July 2017 only when members of the Academic Council received a letter inviting them to depose in front of the committee if they had anything to say about the “events leading to the disruption” of the 142nd Academic Council meeting held on 26 December 2016. The terms of reference of the said committee were not made public nor was it clear which service rules were invoked to constitute this committee.

    After this general letter went out, Prof. Nivedita Menon received a letter from the Bidyut Chakrabarti Committee informing her that several AC members had deposed that she had disrupted the AC meeting. The letter to her also mentioned a video that the Committee was shown, which allegedly shows Prof Menon addressing students and teachers outside the Administrative Block.
    No other faculty member has received a notice to appear before the Committee in this connection.

    Although Prof. Menon was served a notice to appear before the Committee, she was denied her right to be made aware of the specific ‘complaints’ that were central to this inquiry. Further, she was not given a chance to understand the nature of the depositions supposedly received from some AC members alleging that she disrupted the AC meeting, and how they formed prima facie adequate and sufficient grounds for instituting an inquiry against her, nor has she been informed about the provenance of the video referred to.

    It is a matter of public record that a complaint of sexual harassment was filed against Bidyut Chakrabarti by a woman working in a subordinate capacity at the Gandhi Bhavan in the University of Delhi. Professor Menon, who was at the time teaching in the Department of Political Science in Delhi University, had testified against Bidyut Chakrabarti. As a result of the report submitted by the Apex Committee of Delhi University, the University of Delhi had debarred Bidyut Chakravarti from all administrative posts in the University for three years. 

    The JNU administration has exposed its own mala fide intentions by ignoring Prof. Menon’s repeated pleas to reconstitute the inquiry committee, given her legitimate apprehension of bias. Instead they have sent her repeated letters asking her to appear before the inquiry committee. We are deeply shocked that the JNU administration ignored the fact that the nomination of Prof. Chakrabarti as the chair of this inquiry against Prof. Menon is a violation of the principles of natural justice and the right to a fair procedure. Surely the JNU administration and its Executive Council should abide by the principles of a fair inquiry and ensure that such an enquiry should not be headed by someone who has grounds for bias.

    This unethical and persistent harassment of an eminent scholar with an international reputation is yet another instance of the backlash being faced by feminists who stand up to sexism and sexual harassment in their professional spheres. It highlights the strategy adopted by people in positions of power, of trivialising sexual harassment and using their official positions to take revenge against women who have complained or testified against them.

    We would like to stress that the very basis on which the JNU inquiry committee was formed is flawed and motivated and attacks the democratic and open functioning of a prestigious centre of higher education in India.

    Further, we condemn the mala fide, motivated and baseless charges against Professor Nivedita Menon and the JNU administration’s attempts to target her and demand the immediate withdrawal of these charges and dissolution of the enquiry committee.

    We further demand that Bidyut Chakravarti be debarred from any decision making on matters related to sexual harassment and/or GSCASH as an Executive Council member.

    Facts:

    On 4 April 2007, a sexual harassment complaint was made by an employee of Gandhi Bhawan against the then Director, Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty, also faculty at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. The Delhi University apex committee on Sexual Harassment vide its report that was tabled and accepted by the Executive Council Resolution No 114 dated 8.10.07 resolved that:

    1. A letter of warning be issued to Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty.
    2. He should be asked to step down from the Directorship of Gandhi Bhawan.
    3. He should be debarred from holding any administrative post in the University for a period of three years.
    Subsequently, Prof Chakrabarty was removed from the position of Director, Gandhi Bhawan, Head of the Department of Political Science and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences.

    Prof Chakrabarty petitioned to the High Court, Delhi, not on the merits of the complaint but his right to cross-examine the witness (WPC No 8227/2007 dated 29.5.09). The Supreme Court in its order dated 12.1.10 for Special Leave to Appeal directed that cross examination for witnesses be carried out though the ‘witnesses need not be revealed’ and appointed Ms Binu Tamta, the Court Commissioner for the purpose of getting ‘answers to questions’ to be supplied by the respondent Prof Chakrabarty. The statements recorded by the Court Commissioner were heard on 7.5.10 and it was decided that the same be handed over to the Apex Committee for further action and closed the matter.

    The Apex Committee considered the court recordings and submitted its report to the EC. The report was finally tabled in the EC on 21.3.12 and Resolution 235 accepted the findings of the committee. ‘The Council further resolved that Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty, be debarred from all the administrative posts and supervisory duties in the University for the remainder period out of the 3 years, if any.’ The Assistant Registrar (CR & Vigilance) wrote to the Head of the Department, Political Science vide letter no. CR-Vigilance/069/2006/17 dated 23.5.12 to implement the above EC resolution.

    Prof. Chakravarti had petitioned the Delhi High Court also to quash the ‘ordinance XV-D of Delhi University on the ground that it is violative of Article(s) 14, 16 and 311 of the Constitution’ (Prof. Bidyug Chakraborty vs Delhi University & Ors., W.P.(C) No.8226/2007, 29 May 2009 at para 2). Justice Sikri and Justice Jain of the Delhi High Court held that since they had ‘read the requirements of complying with fundamental principles of natural justice as implicit in the inquiry procedure’, there was no need to ‘strike down the relevant provisions of Ordinance XV-D of the University of Delhi’ (Prof. Bidyug Chakraborty vs Delhi University & Ors., W.P.(C) No.8226/2007, 29 May 2009 at para 19).

    Endorsements 

    1. Abha Bhaiya, Jagori Rural, Himachal Pradesh
    2. Prof A Mani, University of Calcutta
    3. Achin Vanaik, Professor of Political Science Delhi University (retired), New Delhi
    4. AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association)
    5. Dr Ajita Rao, Dalit feminist, New Delhi
    6. Dr Albertina de JP Almeida, Advocate, Goa
    7. Dr Alpana Neogy, Associate Professor of English (retd), Delhi University
    8. Dr Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
    9. Amrapali Basumatary, Assistant Professor Kirorimal College, Delhi University.
    10. Amrita, researcher, New Delhi
    11. Dr Amrita Chhachi, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands
    12. Amritananda Chakravorty, Advocate, New Delhi 
    13. Anand Pawar, Pune
    14. Dr Anandhi S, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai
    15. Anannya Bhattacharjee, Garment and Allied Workers’ Union, New Delhi
    16. ANHAD, New Delhi
    17. Dr Anish Vanaik, O.P. Jindal Global University
    18. Prof Anita Ghai, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, New Delhi
    19. Annie Raja, President, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
    20. Prof Anjali Monteiro, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
    21. Anjali Sinha, Stree Mukti Sangathan, Delhi
    22. Dr Anupama Potluri, University of Hyderabad
    23. Anuradha Kapoor, Swayam, Kolkata
    24. Aruna Burte, feminist activist, Maharashtra
    25. Arundathi Viswanath, theatre activist, Himachal Pradesh
    26. Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People’s Movements
    27. Asha Achuthan, Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, TISS
    28. Audrey D’Mello, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
    29. Avishek Konar, Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat
    30. Bindhulakshmi, Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, TISS Mumbai
    31. Prof Bittu Karthik Kondaiah, neurobiologist and activist, Ashoka University
    32. Carole Vance, PhD MPH, Yale University
    33. Carrie Shelver, South Africa
    34. Prof Chaya Datar, feminist scholar, Mumbai
    35. Dr Chayanika Shah, member gender Amity Committee TISS and Women Development Cell, Mumbai University 
    36. Debolina Dutta, Melbourne Law School
    37. Dyuti Ailawadi, feminist activist, Delhi
    38. Dr Geeta R, Department of Botany, Delhi University
    39. Dr. G.Vijay Assistant Professor School of Economics University of Hyderabad
    40. Prof Harjinder Singh, IIT Hyderabad
    41. Farah Naqvi, writer and activist, New Delhi
    42. Flavia Agnes, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
    43. Dr Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Madurai
    44. Gayatri Nayar, TISS, Hyderabad
    45. Gloria Careaga, National Autonomous University of Mexico.
    46. Indira Chakravarthi, researcher, Pune
    47. Ishita Chaudhry, Ashoka Fellow, New Delhi
    48. Dr J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvanandapuram
    49. Prof Janaki Abraham, Department of Sociology, Delhi University
    50. Jasmine George, independent researcher, Bangalore
    51. Jhuma Sen, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
    52. Juhi Jain, feminist activist, New Delhi
    53. Kalyani Menon Sen, feminist activist, Gurgaon
    54. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, feminist and human rights activist, Mumbai
    55. Dr Karen Gabriel, Director Centre for Gender, Culture and Social Processes, Delhi University
    56. Karuna Dietrich Wielenga, researcher, Chennai
    57. Kavita Krishnan, Secretary AIPWA
    58. Kiran Shaheen, memoirist and activist, New Delhi
    59. Prof KP Jayashankar, Dean, School of Media and Cutural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
    60. Lata Mani, independent scholar, Bangalore
    61. Lavanya Suresh, BITS-Pilani, Hyderabad campus
    62. Maimoona Mollah, President, Janwadi Mahila Samiti, Delhi
    63. Manak Matiyani, YP Foundation, New Delhi
    64. Dr Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
    65. Prof Manjari Katju, Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad
    66. Mariam Dhawale, General Secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association
    67. Mathew Jacob, Human Rghts Defenders Alert-India
    68. Meenakshi Puri, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
    69. Meera Shiva, Public Health activist, Diverse Women for Diversity
    70. Dr Mohan Rao, rofessor, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, JNU
    71. N Sarojini, SAMA, New Delhi
    72. Dr Nandini Chandra, Asst Professor, Department of English, Delhi University
    73. Nandini Manjrekar, Mumbai
    74. Nandini Rao, feminist activist, New Delhi
    75. Dr Nandita Shah, Akshara, Mumbai
    76. Neetika Viswanath, Research Associate, Centre on the Death Penalty, NLU New Delhi
    77. Neha Dixit, independent journalist, Delhi
    78. Dr Nisha Biswas, scientist and activist, Kolkata
    79. Niti Saxena, feminist activist, Lucknow
    80. Niveditha Menon, researcher, Bangalore
    81. Oishik Sircar, Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat
    82. Ovais Sultan Khan, social activist, New Delhi
    83. Padma Velaskar, sociologist, Mumbai
    84. Prof Padmaja Shaw, School of Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad
    85. Panchali Ray, Jadavpur University, Kokata
    86. Pankaj Butalia, film-maker, New Delhi
    87. Pamela Philipose, journalist, New Delhi
    88. Pramada Menon, queer activist New Delhi
    89. Priya Pillai, social and environmental activist, New Delhi
    90. Prof Rachana Johri, Ambedkar University, Delhi
    91. Prof Rajni Palriwala, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
    92. Prof Rosemary Dzuvichu, Nagaland University, Kohima
    93. Rajni Tilak, Rahtriya Dalit Mahila Andolan, New Delhi
    94. Rakhi Sehgal, trade unionist, New Delhi
    95. Renu Khanna, Sahaj, Vadodara
    96. Renu Singh, feminist activist and research scholar, Ambedkar University Delhi
    97. Ridhima Mehra, Delhi
    98. Rimple Mehta, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
    99. Rituparna Borah, queer feminist activist, New Delhi
    100. Rochelle Pinto, independent researcher, Bangalore
    101. Rohini Hensman, activist and writer, Mumbai
    102. Rohini Sen, O.P. Jindal Global University
    103. Dr Sadhna Arya, Delhi University
    104. SAHELI Women’s Resource Centre, New Delhi
    105. S. Durga Bhavani, Associate Professor, School of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Hyderabad
    106. Sameena Dalwai, O.P. Jindal Global University
    107. Sangeeta Chatterji, doctoral candidate, Rutgers University
    108. Saptarshi Mandal, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
    109. Saumya Garima Jaipuriar, Kirorimal College, Delhi University
    110. Seema baquer, Disability Rights professional, New Delhi
    111. Shabnam Hashmi, social activist, New Delhi
    112. Shahana Bhattacharya
    113. Shalini Gera, Advocate, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
    114. Sharanya Nayak, farmer and development consultant, Koraput, Orissa
    115. Sheba Chhachi, feminist artist, New Delhi
    116. Sheetal Sharma, activist, Guwahati
    117. Sherin BS. Assistant Professor, EFLU Hyderabad
    118. Dr Shilpa Phadke, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
    119. Dr Shobha Rani, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
    120. Shraddha Chigateri, feminist researcher, Bangalore
    121. Shruti Arora, YP Foundation, New Delhi
    122. Shubha Chacko, social activist, Bangalore
    123. Soma KP, feminist researcher, New Delhi
    124. Dr Soma Marik, Associate Professor of History, RKSM Vivekananda Vidyabhavan, Kolkata
    125. Sonali Khan, feminist activist, New Delhi
    126. Soumyajit Bhattacharya
    127. Srimanjari
    128. Subhash Gatade, human rights activist and writer, New Delhi
    129. Prof Sujata Patel, President, Indian Sociological Society, University of Hyderabad
    130. Sumi Krishna, former President, Indian Association for Women’s Studies, Bangalore
    131. Suneeta Dhar, activist, New Delhi
    132. Sunita VS Bandewar, independent senior research professional, Pune
    133. Susie Tharu, feminist scholar, Hyderabad
    134. Svati Joshi, former faculty, Delhi University, Ahmedabad
    135. Prof Uma Chakravarti, feminist historian, New DelhiUrvashi Butalia, feminist writer, Zubaan, ​New Delhi
    136. Usha Raman, media scholar and writer, Hyderabad
    137. Vandana Mahajan, feminist activist, Bangalore
    138. Vani Subramanian, Saheli
    139. Prof Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University, USA
    140. Veena Mani, doctoral candidate, IIT Madras
    141. Dr Veena Shatrughna, Professor (retd) National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad
    142. Dr Vimala Ramachandran, Educational Resource Unit, New Delhi
    143. Vineeta Bal, scientist, IISER, Pune
    144. Vinita Sahasranaman, feminist activist, New Delhi
    145. Vinodhini Moses, National General Secretary, YWCA of India
    146. Vrinda Marwah, doctoral candidate, University of Texas (Austin)
    147. Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, New Delhi

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