AFTER A journalist was molested at Panjab University on Monday, the authorities have responded by suggesting shutdown of the Botanical Garden, rather than evaluating concerns over safety of women at large. However, the university is yet to issue an official reaction to the incident.
“I am surprised by the complete lack of response from any PU authority, whether it is the Chief Security Officer, or any other senior faculty member or Dean. None of them has approached me or provided any support or promise of redressal,” said the victim who was allegedly molested by an unidentified man whilst on her regular morning walk.
According to the victim, the man was familiar to her as he had approached her on Sunday morning as well, asking her which hostel she lives in. She had replied that she was not a student and began looking at her phone screen to avoid further interaction. However, things took a dangerous turn when the man attempted to physically molest her on Monday, grabbing her from behind and groping her. After a 15-minute-long struggle, the victim was able to escape the man’s grip and run to safety.
“I think we should close down the Botanical Garden. It should not be accessible to people who wish to walk there or take a stroll. It was only open to the maalis before and maybe we should restore it to that status,” said PU Registrar Karamjit Singh. According to Singh, the place is easily accessible to outsiders because the walls are low and one side of the garden borders a forest area.
“There is also a gaping hole in the boundary wall which will allow any outsider to enter and vanish at will,” the victim said.
“We will form a committee and look into this. The Botanical Garden area is unsafe, so we will look into the matter and heighten security in the area. There might be some flaws in our system but we can make it better,” said Shankarji Jha, Dean of University Instruction.
However, concerns over women’s safety on campus are not limited to the incident in the Botanical Garden, women students at the university have approached Newsline with their experiences of stalking, groping, molestation and other forms of harassment across the campus.
Another student from PU, claims that in her first semester on campus in 2017, she was stalked by a male student for two days, who constantly asked her private and intrusive questions. This was followed by many other instances of predatory behaviour faced by her throughout the course of her education. “I was scared and fearful. I was psychologically disturbed by the fact that anything can happen to me on my own campus,” she said.
More recently, female students residing in hostels have been unable to access the library at night due to the fear of commuting alone between hostels and the library at night. Many spots on campus remain unlit and uncovered by CCTV cameras and commuting alone at night appears perilous to these students.
“These incidents do not involve male students from inside campus. They are normally outsiders. No student on campus will do this to other students. We just have to catch the outsiders who roam around on campus at night in their cars,” said Dean Student Welfare Emanual Nahar.
However, Professor Manvinder Kaur, chairperson of PU Committee Against Sexual Harassment (CASH), states that apart from strengthening security, the campus needs to work on changing the mindset of its students, who are often the perpetrators of predatory behaviour.
“The female students need to be emboldened enough to make their voices heard, and the men need to be taught to curb their predatory behaviour. If the men don’t change, these incidents will keep occurring,” Kaur said.
Responding to why women do not approach PUCASH to register complaints, Kaur claims that more workshops will be held in the future to create awareness about redressal already available to campus students.
“When my husband, who works at the university, went and told members of his department what had happened to me, a teacher responded by saying that she had faced a similar incident so she kept herself safe by avoiding the garden entirely. Is this the solution to avoid molestation? How many places do we have to avoid to remain safe?” the victim asked.
Chief Security Officer Ashwani Kaul and Vice-Chancellor Raj Kumar were not available for comment.
PU launches helpline
Late on Tuesday evening, PU introduced a women helpline number: 9779737403. The circular read: In the light of recent events, this is the PU security contact number for girls. In case there is any situation where you don’t feel comfortable or safe, don’t hesitate to reach out. This includes, but is not limited to, being followed, harassed and/or feeling unsafe. The police will reach you immediately. Applicable 24/7.
No arrest, police focus on Dhanas
A day after the stalking and molestation of a woman journalist on Panjab University campus, the Chandigarh Police failed to arrest the suspect.
Police released a sketch of the suspect based on the description given by the victim on Monday. A few PU students and two workers employed at a shrine adjoining the boundary wall of PU saw the sketch on Tuesday, and claimed that a man similar to the suspect was seen entering PU twice from the rear boundary wall in the last fortnight. The rear boundary wall of PU touches the forest area between Dhanas village and the varsity.
The journalist was walking in PN Mehra Botanical Garden when the unknown man pounced on her. She, however, fought hard and managed to escape from his clutches.
The case is being investigated under the supervision of DSP (central) Krishan Kumar along with the Sector 11 SHO, Inspector Rajeev Kumar.
A police officer said, “At least 55 police personnel are investigating this case. Manual intelligence and technical surveillance techniques are being used. As four persons — two students and two shrine workers — claimed on the basis of the sketch that they had spotted him earlier as well, our focus is on Dhanas side. In the melee, victim could not see the complete dress of the suspect but noticed that he was in khakki sweater. The issue of unsecured boundary walls is being taken up with PU authorities.” A case was registered at the Sector 11 police station.
The Chandigarh Press club condemned the incident. It urged the Chandigarh Police to arrest the culprit as soon as possible. -ENS
PEC stalking, molestation: Cops release CCTV footage
POLICE ON Tuesday released 10-second-long CCTV footage of the suspect involved in the stalking and molestation of a woman inside Panjab Engineering College (PEC), and urged residents of Janta Colony and Nayagaon village to identify the suspect if he was spotted in the area.
The suspect was caught on one of the CCTV cameras installed inside the PEC.
The victim had claimed that she would identify him on being produced before her. The suspect escaped after stalking and molesting the victim in the secluded area at the rear of PEC on Monday. The victim had entered the PEC through the broken boundary wall.
A police officer said, “Apparently, the suspect is not a permanent resident of Janta Colony and Nayagaon village. We are hopeful he will be arrested shortly. So far, we have only his CCTV footage in the name of a clue in the investigation.” The victim, a student of vocational course in Sector 15, was going to her institute when the man committed the crime with her on Monday. She raised the alarm and a few PEC students ran towards the spot. One of the students informed the police about it. When the students reached the spot, the accused had escaped. A case was registered at the Sector 11 police station. -ENS