Posted by Sudhamshu Mitra
It was in early 2017 that a sexual harassment complaint against Sonepat-based Ashoka University’s professor Dr. Mitul Baruah, who teaches sociology and anthropology, was filed by the survivor (complainant). The survivor had worked as a Teaching Assistant at Ashoka University in 2016. The complaint was filed for “continuous emotional exploitation and at least one incident of non-consensual sexual intercourse” in the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where she was a research scholar.
GSCASH after finding him guilty of manipulative consent and abuse of patriarchal power in the professional sphere declared him out of bounds from the university and sent the report to CASH of Ashoka University for further investigation. It has been 550 days and the survivor is yet to get justice.
It has been 550 days and the survivor is yet to get justice.
The survivor trusted the due process here throughout. Yet, after multiple committees investigating this complaint, Ashoka University refuses to convey the action taken against Mitul Baruah to the survivor and respond to the discrepancies raised in the due process by the alumni and the students. Mitul Baruah continues to teach at Ashoka University. The timelines of the events, details of the discrepancies, the way in which the survivor was misled, re-traumatised even after repeatedly expressing that she is seeking justice not only for herself but to also ensure a safe space in the university have been listed on the website created by concerned alumni and students.
The survivor had to go through two rounds of deposition – one in front of ad-hoc committee established by the CASH of Ashoka University and Disciplinary Committee of Ashoka University. She had to write more than 5000 words of emails in total to the administration. The crucial ad-hoc committee report based on which both the CASH and Disciplinary Committee of Ashoka University came to conclusions was never given to the survivor. The ad-hoc committee did not even ask her for evidence and list of witnesses before her deposition.
The Disciplinary Committee report was given to the survivor 3 months after it was signed. The CASH and the university also fail to uphold transparency by using the terms ‘workplace’ and ‘misconduct’ in its reports without adequate explanation allowing for semantics to play a big role in defending Mitul Baruah from any punitive action. Amidst these discrepancies, the Vice-Chancellor continued to provide false assurances and hope in his mails to the survivor that they will be soon reaching a final decision on the action that is to be taken on Mitul Baruah.
The CASH report of Ashoka University while expressing that sexual harassment should be treated as misconduct, found Mitul Baruah prima facie guilty of misconduct. It also expressed that allegations could involve possibly a criminal offence. The disciplinary committee found Mitul Baruah guilty of professional misconduct.
Yet, after a traumatic due process of more than 280 days at Ashoka University, she was told that Mitul Baruah has been found not guilty of sexual harassment in a mail without any explanation. Since then, there has been no response to survivor’s queries on action taken on Baruah according to principles of natural justice based on her complaint.
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Featured Image Source: The Wire