A former professor of St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata, has decided to move the Calcutta High Court against the university authorities months after she was “forced” to tender her resignation following complaints from a parent over her “objectionable” photographs on Instagram. According to the woman, a writ petition against the university authorities will be filed at the court concerned by next week.
The woman, who wished not to be named, told The Indian Express that a “kangaroo court” was held on October 7 in the presence of Vice-Chancellor (V-C) Felix Raj, registrar Asish Mitra where she was “intimidated, bullied and taunted with sexually coloured remarks” and “objectionable insinuations” without any provocation or justification.
“I was told that a parent of an undergraduate student had found that his son was looking at my photographs from my personal Instagram account which he found objectionable and bordering on nudity. There were two pictures of me in a blue swimsuit taken in my room which I had posted as an Instagram story last year, several weeks months before joining the university. There was no way those photos could be still accessible since an Instagram story, by default, is live for only 24 hours. Moreover, my Instagram profile is ‘private’ and not ‘public’ … Those two pictures could not have been viewed by the student weeks later,” she said.
She joined the university in August last year. She said that on October 7, 2021, she received a call from the Vice-Chancellor’s office asking that she be present for a meeting with V-C Felix Raj at 4 pm the same day.
“It is a mystery to me how the university accessed those pictures. I felt so distressed and humiliated at that moment that I couldn’t bear to examine the rest of the pictures. I was in a meeting where my private pictures were being circulated among people unknown to me, without my consent. The only way in which such Instagram stories can be accessed by other parties is by hacking or if someone took screenshots of the pictures when they had been posted and subsequently circulated them…” the woman says in her police complaint.
The letter from the parent, which was read to the professor in the October 7 meeting, said, “Recently, I was appalled to find my son looking at some pictures of Prof. [….] where she has posed in a sexually explicit way causing deliberate public exposure …It is obscene, vulgar and improper for a 18-year-old student to see his professor dressed in scanty clothes exhibiting her body on a public platform.”
The academic, who holds a doctorate from two European universities, alleged the manner in which she was made to resign amounted to “sexual harassment”. Her resignation letter, addressed to the V-C, said, “You have not offered any explanation about how the photographs — which were posted months before I joined the institution and which were shared with a select, tightly-controlled audience for 24 hours only — were accessed, neither have you provided any assurance that the photographs will be destroyed. Instead, arbitrary and primitive standards of ‘morality’ have been used to shame and objectify my photographs and my body…”
Neither Vice-Chancellor Felix Raj nor registrar Asish Mitra responded to calls and messages to their mobile numbers on Tuesday.