Gargi College harassers were ‘outsiders’, HRD Minister tells LS

Investigation is under way, he says; AIMC chief says college blamed the victims

The culprits in the alleged sexual harassment of students at Gargi College were “outsiders”, Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal told the Lok Sabha on Monday. He said the college administration has been told to take action.

All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev pulled up Mr. Pokhriyal for “inaction” with regard to violence in educational institutions, noting that it was not enough to say that outsiders were involved as the ones behind the attacks are those with right-wing ideology.

‘Painful episode’

Mr. Pokhriyal made his statement on the incident in response to a supplementary question from Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi during the Lok Sabha Question Hour. Mr. Gogoi noted that one of the reasons for high-levels of stress in educational institutions is cases of sexual harassment and bullying, and referred specifically to the “painful episode” of men entering a women’s college festival and harassing them.

“What instructions the Ministry has given to institutions of higher education with respect to monitoring, supervision and resolution of sexual harassment and bullying cases? What steps will the Ministry take so that the girls of Gargi College feel safe and reassured?” asked Mr. Gogoi.

The Minister responded, saying that the alleged harassment was being investigated. “The incident has been carried out by outsiders, not students. But it is not a good thing. The college administration has been asked to take note of it and instructions have been given to take action against the culprits,” he said. In a letter addressed to the Minister, Ms. Dev said the HRD Ministry has only responded with silence or mere lip service. “It is not enough to say attackers came from outside. Evidence has also come to light that the people responsible for this attack are from a particular ideology which points to a right-wing mindset but no action has been forthcoming to prevent these incidents or take action against the administration or the authorities, which not only disheartens us but also casts serious aspersions on the independence of the functioning of your Ministry,” she wrote.

She noted that the college administration had blamed the victims for being unable to ensure their own safety, while the police and security watched as goons barged into the college and molested the students. Ms. Dev also pointed to the recent attacks against students and teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University as another instance of police and government inaction although there is “insurmountable evidence” showing who is to blame.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), a Left-affiliated group, also criticised the attitude of authorities to the harassment at Gargi College, allegedly by “a group of pro CAA protesters...who were drunk and shouted Jai Shri Ram slogans.”

“AIDWA is appalled to learn that the college authorities to no notice of the complaints of the girls. AIDWA demands that the police takes cognisance of the incident and immediately bring the culprits to book. It also demands that the university look into the insensitive and irresponsible behaviour of the Gargi college authorities,” it added.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 2:13:36 AM |

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