There are no breaking news at the moment

Nivedita_Menon

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. Achin Vanaik, Professor of Political Science Delhi University (retired), New Delhi
  3. AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association)
  4. Dr Ajita Rao, Dalit feminist, New Delhi
  5. Dr Alpana Neogy, Associate Professor of English (retd), Delhi University
  6. Amrapali Basumatary, Assistant Professor Kirorimal College, Delhi University.
  7. Amrita, researcher, New Delhi
  8. Amritananda Chakravorty, Advocate, New Delhi
  9. Anand Pawar, Pune
  10. Anannya Bhattacharjee, Garment and Allied Workers’ Union, New Delhi
  11. ANHAD, New Delhi
  12. Dr Anish Vanaik, O.P. Jindal Global University
  13. Dr Anupama Potluri, University of Hyderabad
  14. Anuradha Kapoor, Swayam, Kolkata
  15. Prof Anjali Monteiro, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
  16. Annie Raja, President, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
  17. Aruna Burte, feminist activist, Maharashtra
  18. Arundathi Viswanath, theatre activist, Himachal Pradesh
  19. Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People’s Movements
  20. Audrey D’Mello, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
  21. Prof Bittu Karthik Kondaiah, neurobiologist and activist, Ashoka University
  22. Carole Vance, PhD MPH, Yale University
  23. Debolina Dutta, Melbourne Law School
  24. Dr Geeta R, Department of Botany, Delhi University
  25. G.Vijay Assistant Professor School of Economics University of Hyderabad
  26. Prof Harjinder Singh, IIT Hyderabad
  27. Dr Karen Gabriel, Director Centre for Gender, Culture and Social Processes, Delhi University
  28. Dr Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
  29. Dr Nandini Chandra, Asst Professor, Department of English, Delhi University
  30. Dr Nisha Biswas, scientist and activist, Kolkata
  31. Dyuti Ailawadi, feminist activist, Delhi
  32. Farah Naqvi, writer and activist, New Delhi
  33. Flavia Agnes, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
  34. Dr Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Madurai
  35. Gayatri Nayar, TISS, Hyderabad
  36. Gloria Careaga, National Autonomous University of Mexico.
  37. Indira Chakravarthi, researcher, Pune
  38. Ishita Chaudhry, Ashoka Fellow, New Delhi
  39. Dr J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvanandapuram
  40. Jasmine George, independent researcher, Bangalore
  41. Jhuma Sen, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
  42. Juhi Jain, feminist activist, New Delhi
  43. Kalyani Menon Sen, feminist activist, Gurgaon
  44. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, feminist and human rights activist, Mumbai
  45. Karuna Dietrich Wielenga, researcher, Chennai
  46. Kavita Krishnan, Secretary AIPWA
  47. Kiran Shaheen, memoirist and activist, New Delhi
  48. Prof KP Jayashankar, Dean, School of Media and Cutural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
  49. Lata Mani, independent scholar, Bangalore
  50. Manak Matiyani, YP Foundation, New Delhi
  51. Prof Manjari Katju, Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad
  52. Mathew Jacob, Human Rghts Defenders Alert-India
  53. Meenakshi Puri, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
  54. Meera Shiva, Public Health activist, Diverse Women for Diversity
  55. Nandini Rao, feminist activist, New Delhi
  56. Nandini Manjrekar, Mumbai
  57. Neha Dixit, independent journalist, Delhi
  58. Niti Saxena, feminist activist, Lucknow
  59. Niveditha Menon, researcher, Bangalore
  60. Oishik Sircar, Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat
  61. Ovais Sultan Khan, social activist, New Delhi
  62. Padma Velaskar, sociologist, Mumbai
  63. Prof Padmaja Shaw, School of Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad
  64. Pankaj Butalia, film-maker, New Delhi
  65. Pamela Philipose, journalist, New Delhi
  66. Pramada Menon, queer activist New Delhi
  67. Priya Pillai, activist, New Delhi
  68. Priya Pillai, social and environmental activist, New Delhi
  69. Prof A Mani, University of Calcutta
  70. Prof Anita Ghai, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, New Delhi
  71. Prof Bittu K, scientist and activist, New Delhi
  72. Prof Chaya Datar, feminist scholar, Mumbai
  73. Prof Janaki Abraham, Department of Sociology, Delhi University
  74. Prof Rachana Johri, Ambedkar University, Delhi
  75. Prof Rajni Palriwala, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
  76. Prof Rosemary Dzuvichu, Nagaland University, Kohima
  77. Prof Sujata Patel, President, Indian Sociological Society, University of Hyderabad
  78. Prof Uma Chakravarti, feminist historian, New Delhi
  79. Rakhi Sehgal, trade unionist, New Delhi
  80. Renu Khanna, Sahaj, Vadodara
  81. Ridhima Mehra, Delhi
  82. Rimple Mehta, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
  83. Rituparna Borah, queer feminist activist, New Delhi
  84. Rochelle Pinto, independent researcher, Bangalore
  85. Rohini Sen, O.P. Jindal Global University
  86. Dr Sadhna Arya, Delhi University
  87. SAHELI Women’s Resource Centre, New Delhi
  88. Durga Bhavani, Associate Professor, School of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Hyderabad
  89. Sameena Dalwai, O.P. Jindal Global University
  90. Sangeeta Chatterji, doctoral candidate, Rutgers University
  91. Saptarshi Mandal, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
  92. Saumya Garima Jaipuriar, Kirorimal College, Delhi University
  93. Shabnam Hashmi, social activist, New Delhi
  94. Shahana Bhattacharya
  95. Shalini Gera, Advocate, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
  96. Sharanya Nayak, farmer and development consultant, Koraput, Orissa
  97. Sheba Chhachi, feminist artist, New Delhi
  98. Sheetal Sharma, activist, Guwahati
  99. Sherin BS. Assistant Professor, EFLU Hyderabad
  100. Dr Shilpa Phadke, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
  101. Dr Shobha Rani, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
  102. Shraddha Chigateri, feminist researcher, Bangalore
  • Shruti Arora, YP Foundation, New Delhi
  • Shubha Chacko, social activist, Bangalore
  • Dr Soma Marik, Associate Professor of History, RKSM Vivekananda Vidyabhavan, Kolkata
  • Sonali Khan, feminist activist, New Delhi
  • Sumi Krishna, former President, Indian Association for Women’s Studies, Bangalore
  • Suneeta Dhar, activist, New Delhi
  • Susie Tharu, feminist scholar, Hyderabad
  • Urvashi Butalia, feminist writer, Zubaan, New Delhi
  • Usha Raman, media scholar and writer, Hyderabad
  • Vandana Mahajan, feminist activist, Bangalore
  • Vani Subramanian, Saheli
  • Veena Mani, doctoral candidate, IIT Madras
  • Vineeta Bal, scientist, IISER, Pune
  • Vinita Sahasranaman, feminist activist, New Delhi
  • Vrinda Marwah, doctoral candidate, University of Texas (Austin)
  • Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, New Delhi

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The malicious and vindictive nature of JNU authorities are exposed nce again. The harassment and continued oppression by the authorities should be severely condemned by all democratic activists