Scientists sign petition supporting JNU students' protest against professor Johri

The letter exhorts authorities to punish sexual misconduct by “blacklisting” offenders from funding, academies and participation in scientific committees.

Updated - March 26, 2018 07:40 pm IST

Published - March 26, 2018 11:02 am IST - NEW DELHI

Activists of various women organisations staging a protest demonstration, demanding the arrest of JNU Professor Atul Johri, who is accused of sexually harassing female students, at the Vasanth Kunj Police Station in New Delhi. File Photo.

Activists of various women organisations staging a protest demonstration, demanding the arrest of JNU Professor Atul Johri, who is accused of sexually harassing female students, at the Vasanth Kunj Police Station in New Delhi. File Photo.

Over 150 scientists have signed a petition calling upon Indian scientists and “women scientists in particular” to support students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, protesting the grant of bail to Professor Atul Johri, who is accused of sexual harassment. The letter exhorts the authorities to punish sexual misconduct by “blacklisting” offenders from funding, academies and participation in scientific committees.

The petitioners include scientists from JNU as well as several leading institutes across the country such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the National Centre for Biological Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science.

The petition notes that while sexual harassment isn’t unique to the scientific establishment, some features of how science is organised makes its “authority structure especially perilous to women.”

There was an “absence of women” in decision-making bodies as well as their under-representation in scientific committees and academies. While the growing enrolment of women in universities had prompted reflection of gender in the arts and humanities departments, these questions were yet to find resonance in scientific fields. “The world of science has remained unaffected and unwilling to question its way of doing things,” the petition rues.

Will petition be submitted to govt.?

One of the signatories told The Hindu that there was yet no clarity on whether the petition would be submitted to the government.

“It is time that Indian science woke up to its changing social reality and gives up its business-as-usual attitude. It is also time to hear from Indian science academies and funding bodies clear policies of inclusion and representation. In addition, sexual misconduct should not only be condemned, it should invite black-listing from serving on scientific committees, receiving funding, awards and election to academies,” the petition said.

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