More than 100 activist and academics    Condemn harassment of Prof Nivedita Menon  by JNU administration

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. 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. 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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