- The woman, a teaching assistant, was allegedly harassed by a professor
- He continued to teach at Ashoka University, even after her complaint
- The university refuses to give details of the action taken
Nearly two years has passed since a woman filed a sexual harassment complaint against a faculty member at the Ashoka University in Haryana's Sonipat, but the accused is yet to face any action.
Petitions were filed, protests were called, and "due process" was followed, but Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Mitul Baruah continues to be an active member of the institution. The woman -- a teaching assistant who served under the accused at the time -- says precious little has come out of the complaints filed by her before the university authorities.
But now that the #MeToo movement has gathered steam across the country -- outing film personalities and senior media professionals so far considered untouchable -- the complainant has finally found the courage to come out openly against her alleged tormenter. "Although I followed due process, Ashoka University's inaction (against the assistant professor) has left me traumatised. It has affected my work. Over a year has passed, but the university refuses to take action against Mitul Baruah -- allowing him to continue teaching there. I am giving this statement only because the #MeToo movement has given me the courage to bring my nearly two-year struggle to the fore," she said in her first-ever public statement recently.
Incidentally, Mr Baruah was also named in law student Raya Sarkar's crowd-sourced list of alleged sexual predators in academic circles.
Three panels -- the Jawaharlal Nehru University's Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment, Ashoka University's Committee Against Sexual Harassment (CASH) and a separate internal disciplinary body -- were entrusted with investigating the matter when the woman first filed her complaint of rape and emotional exploitation against Mr Baruah in April 2017. While the JNU panel found the accused guilty of abusing "patriarchal power in the professional sphere", CASH admitted that the allegations "could possibly involve a criminal offence". The university's disciplinary body, for its part, noted that Mr Baruah was "guilty of professional misconduct at the workplace".
Although this gave rise to hopes of justice being served, a statement released by the university on July 7 left the complainant confused. "Ashoka has adjudicated this case with the highest standards of integrity, due process and fairness," it read, making no mention of the action likely to be taken against the assistant professor. When NDTV reached out to Ashoka authorities for clarifications, their response was curt: "The university doesn't have anything to add to the statement."
Later, on August 27, an internal email sent out by Vice-Chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta to the current batch of students stated that Mr Baruah was "not found guilty of sexual harassment". No mention was made of the offences he was found guilty of.
Soon, pressure began building on the administration to take action against the accused. Several students boycotted his classes, saying that they felt unsafe in his company. The alumni of the university also expressed their disapproval over Mr Baruah going unpunished. "The administration of Ashoka University refuses to tell the complainant about the action they have taken (against the accused). It saddens me that a liberal arts university like Ashoka is shielding the defendant and staying silent, especially in the light of the #MeToo movement," said Sudhamshu Mitra, a former student.