Two whistleblower students, one education giant, a one-year-long campaign, the importance of Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs).
And what a victory!
In November 2018, two students at one India’s prestigious colleges, Symbiosis Law School-Hyderabad (SLS-H), were evicted from the college campus for calling out a professor for sexual harassment and for demanding more efficient Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). It took a year, but they were back! Let us take you through how (in)conveniently Symbiosis allowed the two students on the campus again.
Jhatkaa.org started a campaign asking the college to start an ICC investigation into the case and take the students back with immediate effect.
Member calls to M.S. Shejul, Registrar, SLS, and Dr Vidya Yeradevkar, Principal Director, SLS is done telling members to ask for an update.
Supremely talented and brave illustrator Sharath Ravishankar depicted the two student’s journeys with a comic strip, and it turned heads and got the media mobilization to spread the word.
Symbiosis sends an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) notification to Snigdha and Apoorva recommending the dismissal of the accused professor.
Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi steps in to ensure that Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad (SLS-H), takes Snigdha and Apoorva back in college.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) ensures that the case was being at high priority for the statutory body. This happened after a few meetings with the students.
University Grants Commission sends an email to Jhatkaa notifying them about Symbiosis’s reply to the petition. They demand that the registrar speaks in the matter as soon as possible. Later reports, through sources, also suggested that UGC had sent a team to the campus to re-open previous harassment cases.
Soon after this mobilization and intervention of prominent stakeholders like ministries and a couple of meetings with the two students, Symbiosis calls them back on campus.
It’s a VICTORY!
Soon after we celebrated this campaign at Jhatkaa.org, another campaign proved that gender-sensitization in the police could go a long way.
Public pressure created by Jhatkaa.org members forced the Neb Sarai police station to file an FIR in a sexual harassment case. Honestly, this campaign has seen it all, alleged bribes, police threats, and even a Coronavirus pandemic!
It was essential that the FIR was needed to be lodged before Delhi shut down the following precautions against the Coronavirus. Police have been evading the case for over six months, and a court shutdown would have meant more financial burden on the complainant.
I still remember the day when the complainant called me late one night with police trying to barge into her house. She was scared for herself and her infant daughter.
That was the night we knew we needed to put more pressure on the authorities to take this case forward. We wrote letters to the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), who, in turn, directed the Commissioner to file a report.
I made calls to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, South, asking him why the case wasn’t filed. While members like you were supporting us online, we continued to take your voice to police and ministries to act.
Another example was when an Internal Complainants Committee (ICC) was finally set up for the sexual harassment complainant from Indian Museum, Kolkata, who had reached out to us in August 2019.
We built pressure not only on the Indian Museum director to resign for the duration of the investigation but also on the Ministry of Culture to kick-start the ICC proceedings.
Repeated calls to the Ministry of Indian Culture, conversation with Under Secretary S.C Mondal, coordinated twitterstorms, and our petition highlighted the case in the ministry, and ICC was set up soon after.
The power of online mobilization has been visible quite often in campaigns. We live in a digital world, and this is one of the best tools to raise activism as it should be.
We also had a campaign that gathered 1000 signatures and over 50 emails by Jhatkaa.org members to the director of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) and finally getting the sexual harassment redressal process started for the complainant.
The complainant was a final year student with the Kolkata-based film institute who had accused staff of sexual harassment. The institute reportedly intimidated the complainant to take her case back.
Honestly, a complete victory in this campaign would have been to have the Internal Committee Complaints (ICC) complete the investigation. However, this campaign journey was full of important milestones. For one, within a day of our members sending emails to the director, she re-opened the case. We even got the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to intervene.
It was a huge step because it was the result of collective pressure and media outreach. This campaign was an example of how media and campaigning, working together, can do wonders.