A crowd-sourced list naming alleged sexual harassers in academia that was put together by California-based attorney Raya Sarkar has brought the #Metoo campaign closer to home as 61 Indian academics figure on the list. The #MeToo campaign is a fallout of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations, the first by many actresses in the West.
The list put up on Sarkar’s Facebook page names teachers of Delhi University, Jadavpur University, Film and Television Institute of India and The Energy and Resources Institute, among others. A political theorist, whose name figures on the list, said: “Since I do not participate in social media, I am ignorant of the ethics of how such lists are compiled. All I can say is that I have never heard of a complaint of sexual harassment made against me, neither official, nor informal. I cannot respond any further unless I know what the complaint is.” ExpressExplained | Sexual misconduct and the idea of naming-shaming
A DU professor, who has been named, said: “I am deeply saddened to know that this kind of malice is being circulated on social media. This is a baseless allegation against me. I have never been involved in any such activity.” He, however, added: “Three years back, someone complained against me and the case was tabled before the ICC (Internal complaint committee) of the University of Delhi. The ICC found all charges to be baseless and rejected this matter. I do not understand why my name is being listed in above said list now…. After taking up this issue with the ICC, university officials and other experts, I will definitely sue this lady and file a defamation case against her.”
An academic from a Kolkata university, also named on Sarkar’s list, said he would “wait till the hysteria has died down before I say anything. I wouldn’t want to feed into any anti-feminist cause.” A professor from a university in Delhi said given the situation, “best thing to do is to keep quiet”. He refused to comment further. The name-and-shame list has divided feminist groups.
Some of India’s recognised feminist names, Ayesha Kidwai, Brinda Bose, Kavita Krishnan, Nivedita Menon, Vrinda Grover among others, put out a statement on the web portal Kafila. “We are dismayed by the initiative on Facebook, in which men are being listed and named as sexual harassers with no context or explanation. One or two names of men who have been already found guilty of sexual harassment by due process, are placed on par with unsubstantiated accusations,” the statement said.
With social media becoming the battleground where old grievances are finding a new voice, legal implications of such campaigns are gaining importance. Delhi-based lawyer Apar Gupta said: “Any allegation concerning sexual abuse or harassment is usually met with denials and claims of defamation. Often, this is a tactic to silence more women and victims from speaking out by men who enjoy power to maintain their public standing.”