When Raya Sarkar, a student from University of California posted a list of names of alleged sexual offenders from Indian colleges, universities and research centres, closer home, students at the Film and Television Institute of India(FTII) were shaken up. The list, which Sarkar claimed to have gathered from students with the intention of warning other young women about sexual harassers, included a visiting professor, Nilanjan Dutta. Representatives from the students’ body at FTII met the newly appointed chairman, Anupam Kher, to address this issue.
Robin Joy, President of the Students’ Association said, “We met Kher and have expressed our apprehensions about him (Dutta) still being a faculty, despite such serious allegations. Kher has assured us that he will consider the matter.”
Incidentally, way back in 2015, Adwaita Das, a student of FTII, had complained of harassment against professor Dutta. Even though she did not file a formal complaint at the institute, she openly accused him after she received an award from him on stage.
“The Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) which has been replaced by the Internal Complaints (IC) Committee, had a better structure. It had elected members, whereas ICC has members nominated by the administration. Complaining against a faculty becomes difficult, since there is a fear of being misunderstood or getting targeted while grading,” says a female student at FTII.
Now that the issue has been raked up again and Dutta’s name has resurfaced, students at FTII feel that an action is necessary. A female student who did not wish to be named said, “It is an uncomfortable situation for us to have him teaching, despite these allegations. Even though we have raised concerns, the authorities refuse to take action, because there is no formal complaint. This will discourage women to come out and talk about harassment.”
Kumar emphasized that women are not forthcoming in filing complaints, despite the Internal Complaints (IC) Committee.
Sarkar’s list which was published last month (and later withdrawn) was a compilation of 60 names from across the globe. Three names were of professors from FTII. Apart from Dutta, other names in the list include Sandeep Chatterjee, faculty of direction, and Arghya Basu, former faculty of the institute.
The institute claims that there has been no formal complaint in the past against these two professors. IC has four members, of which three are women including one external lawyer. However, either written or oral complaints are required for the committee to take up complaints. Authorities state it is an independently functioning body and based on their reports, the administration takes action.
FTII director, Bhupendra Kainthola, says, “A few months ago, an artist had complained about a student of harassment. On enquiry, it was found that there were other complaints against him too. Finally, the student was expelled from the hostel.”
A senior official from the administration states that the ICC may take a stand on Nilanjan Dutta, however the body is yet to confirm.
‘Public apology is what I want’ “Women should speak up (against sexual harassment), but it is not always easy. It can adversely affect their professional and personal lives if the accused gets vindictive. But wherever they can, they should speak up. If women do not file a formal report, action cannot be taken, but public shaming is still a possibility. Public apology is what I want.” — Nishtha Jain, former FTII student alleged in a social media post, that her classmate Arghya Basu, had groped her in 2010.
Students from FTII have sent a solidarity message to Nistha. “We have very good relations with her. So we sent her personal messages expressing our support to her,” informed Rohit Kumar.
When PT reached out to the professors and students, they informed us that they were not allowed to talk to the press by the institute. Anupam Kher was also unavailable for comment till the time of going to press.
November 14, 2017 at 5:21 pm
The students expressing solidarity with the visitor is a positive move. Allegations of harassment resurfacing in FTII is unfortunate and the matter must be investigated