After pledging support, my friends have backed out: Parle law student
The law college student on whose complaint the police arrested visiting professor Irshad Bhatti on charges of sexual harassment and stalking has said her classmates who had volunteered to speak out with their stories have now backed out, citing various reasons.

Speaking exclusively to Mumbai Mirror, the student said barring two of her friends, other students have started avoiding her after promising to speak to the police about the alleged harassment they too had faced at the hands of the accused.

Bhatti, a visiting professor at the Usha Praveen Gandhi College of Law, taught alternative disputes resolution systems, a compulsory paper for final year students.

Mirror was the first to report on February 28 about his alleged harassment of students on Saturday, after which the police arrested him and later released him on bail. He has been charged with sexual harassment and stalking.

The student had made the police complaint through her lawyer Rizwan Merchant on Thursday after alleging that the college management had turned a blind eye to several complaints of sexual harassment, including some from non-teaching staff members.

She said several of these students who have now backed out had complained to the college principal about the alleged harassment, while some were witness to her alleged harassment in the classroom. The student said they were now not ready to repeat the same to the police.

“I have been calling and messaging them every day to take this case to its logical end, but apart from two, the rest are backing out,” the student told Mirror. “They are too scared to give the same statements (they made internally) to the police. Many of these pushed me to take up the incident seriously, volunteering to give their side of the story. It is a shame that all the people in that class are studying to become lawyers, but are scared of the police machinery.” Speaking about her alleged harassment, the student said it happened in front of other students in the classroom, after which the students discussed about what to do about it.

“During the break, around six of us started discussing how we were being made victims of sexual harassment day in and day out and how I should stand up for what had happened to me just then,” she said. “The break was then followed by a female faculty’s lecture during which more than 25 girls in class started discussing how we did not like the conduct of the accused in general.”

One girl said he sat too close for comfort at all times and another shared an incident where he had run his hands through her hair. A third then said he kept peeping into her phone and addressed her as baby and sweetheart.

“Soon after the lecture, eight to nine girls came with me to the principal saying they supported the cause and that we should take it to its logical end,” the student said. “But once I approached the police, since we have had experiences in the past where nothing has happened with sexual harassment complaints the girls slowly began to back out.”

Some of them are now terming the harassment as being ‘not such a big issue’, the student said. Some other students started telling her that their families did not want them to get into any legal tangle.

“There were two girls who had told me they would definitely give a statement regarding how he (the accused) made girls in class uncomfortable and they did not like his conduct in general. But even they have backed out. I message them every single day to stand up for what they have gone through but in vain.”