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500 Days On, No Justice For The Survivor In Ashoka University Sexual Harassment Case

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It’s been more than 500 days since the survivor first filed her complaint against Mitul Baruah, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University. The survivor is yet to get justice.

The complaint against Baruah was for ‘continuous emotional exploitation and at least one incident of non-consensual sexual intercourse’ which essentially is a rape.

While the complainant shared a consensual relationship with Baruah, the consent was built upon lies, deceit, manipulation, and gaslighting. It involved sexual and emotional exploitation by Baruah. The survivor, who knew Baruah on social media and who worked as a teaching assistant at Ashoka University, expressed that the intersection of their professional trajectories in the university was a coincidence. In her complaint depositions, she also emphasised that Baruah asked her for sexual favours in his office at the university.

Based on this complaint, JNU GSCASH committee initiated an inquiry in September 2017, wherein both the parties were heard and evidences were examined. After the inquiry, it found Mitul Baruah guilty of manipulative consent and abuse of patriarchal power in the professional sphere of the workplace and declared him out of bounds from the JNU campus. The report was then sent to Ashoka University. Ashoka began its investigation in October 2017.

The survivor had to depose before two committees at the university and relive her trauma repeatedly for over 400 days.

  • Expressing that sexual harassment should be treated as misconduct, CASH of Ashoka University found Baruah prima facie guilty of misconduct and also stated that allegations could involve a criminal offence.
  • The Disciplinary Committee of Ashoka University found Baruah guilty of professional misconduct according to all ethical norms of professional misconduct.
  • However, the grounds on which Baruah has been acquitted of sexual harassment at the workplace by Disciplinary Committee are heavily contestable as detailed here. It turns a blind eye to the instance of non-consensual sex and the fact that she was asked for sexual favours in the professional sphere of the workplace.

The survivor was also compelled to file an FIR during this process after receiving threatening calls about leaking sensitive materials shared during the relationship and email & social media hack attempts. Mitul Baruah was identified as the prime suspect by the police and was made to sign an undertaking that he possesses no such material and that he will take responsibility in case of a potential leak. After this, the threat calls and hack attempts reduced significantly.

While being in a deceitful relationship with the survivor, Baruah had confided in her on more than one occasion about getting distracted by the dresses girl students wore in the university. This was clearly emphasised time and again by the survivor to the inquiry committees.

And yet, after more than 5000 words of emails by the survivor, multiple petitions and emails by the alumni and students of the university, the university refuses to convey the quantum of punishment taken against Mitul Baruah. Hence, violating the fundamentals of natural justice.

Instead, the Vice Chancellor Pratap Banu Mehta and the university administration has continued to defend Baruah by expressing that the ‘outcome’ has been communicated to the survivor. But, all the university has done is to mail the survivor stating that Baruah has not been found guilty of sexual harassment without expressing the action taken against Baruah who was found guilty of professional misconduct based on survivor’s complaint.

The university also refuses to explain the discrepancies in the due process mentioned below. (FAQ, timelines, and details are listed here.

  • Ad-Hoc Committee Report which CASH and Disciplinary Committee Report refers to is not given to the survivor.
  • Survivor not asked for evidences and list of witnesses before her deposition.
  • Transcription of depositions not provided to the survivor.
  • Disciplinary Committee Report is given three months after it is signed.
  • Use of the term ‘misconduct’ in the reports without an explanation regarding what they mean by it and how they arrived at that conclusion, overlooking findings of the previous committees.
  • Through the mails, VC gave false hope to the survivors that action will be taken against Baruah.
    Ashoka University which prides itself on being the bastion of liberal values and wants to be considered as one of the top universities of the world should practice what it preaches and take immediate action on Mitul Baruah.

Take strict and punitive action against Mitul Baruah and convey the same to the survivor. Make reparations to the survivor for the systemic delays that inflicted further mental distress on her and an unconditional apology to the survivor.

Provide full clarity on the discrepancies in the due process followed in this case.
#metoo #youtooashoka #timesup

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