A few days ago, I read the news about Prof. Dheeraj Sharma, the Director of IIM, Rohtak being booked for sexual harassment by an employee. I am writing this piece because the news also said that the authorities at IIM, Rohtak instead of choosing to investigate the case are accusing the woman of defaming him and that her complaint was an afterthought. I have worked on a few projects with Prof. Dheeraj Sharma while he was at IIM, Ahmedabad, and I have had some uncomfortable experiences.
Often our meetings would go on for long, where he would share with me about his private life – former romantic relationships, conflicts, etc. He also spoke about him trusting me and not sharing this with anyone else. I kept it to myself. I was uncomfortable about this from the beginning but only later realised how inappropriate this was and was crossing professional boundaries. I often did not know what to say, and also did not have the understanding of what I should do.
I was confused because he spoke about the harassment on campus and how he was trying to save the girls from the boys. He also spoke about how he was okay with ‘orgies’ but not with some of the male students making false promises to the girls on campus and being engaged in flings.
Once when I spoke about working on a challenging project he called me a “wannabe man” and that I must remember that it is a man’s world and will be. Hearing about my ambitions, he also spoke about how I came from a middle-class family, and I should thusly make my career choices.
I worked with him on a project, for which I never got credit. He said he would do it in the next edition, but that never happened. After my experience of working with him, I heard from various other students about him having subjected similar or worse behaviour on other women on campus. Students also reported saying that many rated his classes ‘low’ because he was not competent.
I had decided to let this go – because… what’s the point now? But it somewhere stayed in my head because it scarred my experience with one of the best institutes in the country. I was just glad that I was out of it. I am SURE that many other women have gone through this. I can now understand how and why it is so difficult to come up and speak and report against sexual abuse at the workplace. There is a constant backlash of victim blaming, and the men with the power and authority end up getting away scot-free. This threatens the victim with a higher risk after speaking. I hope others speak up too. Because this is not just fair to me or her, but to other students, and to the education system in India.
Note: As of July 2018, the FIR lodged against Dheeraj Sharma has been cancelled by the Rohtak Police.