Five of the eight complainants who have lodged cases of sexual harassment against Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Professor Atul Johri Wednesday spoke out against giving the issue a “political colour” and linking it to their alleged lack of attendance. In his bail application filed on Tuesday, Johri had alleged that the complaints had been filed because he had sent the students a mail on February 27 regarding their irregular attendance.
Speaking to the media, the complainants said that six of them were registered members of the ABVP and not Left supporters. They also rejected Johri’s accusation of the entire case being about irregular attendance. Furnishing proof of their lab attendance registers, they claimed they had maintained a healthy attendance record. One of the complainants also alleged that attendance could not be a factor, since two of the eight complainants were Johri’s former students.
The women, in a statement, said, “There is a lot of pressure on us from various sources to withdraw the complaints. In fact, the excuse of attendance is being made to give this entire issue a political colour. There is no relation between attendance and sexual harassment. The accused has said that we are Left supporters and it is a political conspiracy. While the truth remains that many of us are registered members and supporters of ABVP,” the women said in a statement.
The complainants also countered Johri’s bail arguments in court that they had played Holi with him and attended his wife’s birthday party. A complainant said, “We were forced into them due to the formalities and institutional hierarchy.”
Expressing “shock” at Johri being granted bail, the complainants said they questioned if sexual harassment was being taken seriously. “After the December 16, 2012, movement, all of us thought that the discourse around sexual harassment has taken a significant direction. But after yesterday — when an arrested accused in eight cases of grave sexual harassment charges was given bail in a few minutes — we stand to question whether sexual harassment is still considered seriously,” they said.
The complainants have demanded that the JNU administration immediately suspend Johri, who they claimed was being protected because of his political links. “Delhi Police did not even seek remand of the accused for further questioning. The JNU administration so far has not taken any action against him. The Delhi Commission for Women has also sent the JNU administration and the Delhi Police notices regarding the issue. Who is the police and JNU administration trying to protect?” they alleged.