A TRAINING consultant for the Department of Women’s Studies in Goa University is a former student who was accused by a classmate from 2017 of sexually harassing her and later faced an internal probe, records reviewed by The Indian Express show.
Records show that the consultant, As’ad Shah, is a “Specialist-Training” with the department’s state resource center since September 7, 2018. Shah has been accused of having told Japanese students on “at least 12 occasions” in May and June 2017, during a study tour in Japan, that his then Indian course mate wanted to buy a sexual accessory. “She wants it…please help her,” he reportedly said.
In 2018, Shah completed a paper titled “Gender Sensitisation Intervention for Change” during his Masters programme. His current role involves liaisoning with the state on training and capacity building for women, conducting field trips across schools and colleges and engaging with children, teenagers and teachers on “gender sensitisation and gender equality”.
Records show the charges against Shah were taken up by the university’s seven-member Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), which closed the probe citing delay by the victim in reporting the case. But it noted: “…the fact however remains that the Respondent (Shah) has uttered the words in question”.
The complainant accused Head of Department Shaila Desouza and Assistant Professor Mamta Kumari of “covering up the victim’s grievances” and “humiliating and causing mental torture for having raised the complaint” and “blocking grades”. The HoD has also been accused of making the victim narrate the episode before other faculty and the accused, against her will.
On May 9, 2019, Registrar Professor Y V Reddy forwarded the ICC’s recommendation to Shah. “…to caution you to exercise restraint and to use language in moderation and without offence in your day to day conduct and dealings with women and children, and to uphold the dignity of women of all ages and respect the opposite gender,” it said.
On the complaint against the HoD, the ICC recommended that “the heads of departments and person holding other statutory positions in Goa University should be vigilant and should endeavour to promote the purpose of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in letter and spirit”.
The victim has now written to Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, who is the university’s Chancellor, pointing to more “complaints from within the State Resource Centre on the continuance of inappropriate behaviour” by Shah.
She has also written to the ICC, asking why its probe did not include the case of a fellow student who also accused Shah of sexual harassment in a meeting called by the HoD in the presence of four faculty and six students.
Alleging that her complaint was “trivialised”, the victim has also appealed against the “confusing ICC order” to the chairperson and members of the university’s executive committee. In the appeal, she wrote that allowing Shah, “a serial offender”, to continue as a mentor-trainer to “vulnerable women” sets a precedent, which “will make students not raise any complaint in the future and will embolden persons who commit acts of sexual harassment”.
Calling for “No Tolerance towards Sexual Harassment”, she questioned the ICC for having “conducted its inquiry in isolation” and in “complete ignorance of the #metoo movement where complaints with delay have been dealt with all seriousness in institutions like TISS and Ambedkar University”.
In her first complaint against Shah on December 5, 2018, the victim, his classmate in the 2016-2018 MA course, reported a series of alleged instances between May 15 and June 10, 2017, when both of them had travelled to Nihon University on a month-long “Study Japan” programme.
She alleged that Shah verbally bullied and sexually harassed her, citing the 12 instances at “social gatherings and international students meet”.
“I felt humiliation, mental trauma, I was do disturbed by this. As’ad was making fun of me, my age, ragging me, humiliated me in public…This was really traumatising for me. I never told him or anyone I want to buy any kind of sex toy, neither needed. I shouted at him and other students. I cried, expressed I am not liking this type of talk against me,” she wrote.
She also alleged that Shah would make the Japanese students utter an abusive word in Hindi, and make videos of the women repeating the phrase. The students were also allegedly sent to the victim to ask for the meaning of the word.
“I could not complain (to) anyone as one male Indian student is doing sexual harassment, mental and emotional harassment to another Indian female classmate. It was a matter of reputation of both university as well as India,” read the complaint.
In his statement to the ICC, Shah confirmed having given the impression that the “victim wants a (sexual accessory)”, including once to fellow classmates while the victim “was sleeping in the dormitory”, and later to Japanese students during a farewell ceremony.
Shah, however, claimed that the victim has made the “malicious” complaint after he joined the position of Specialist-Training, and accused her of slander. “I have been slandered extensively… for almost two years while I was a student, by labelling me a rapist, sexual harasser, a molester, Ram Rahim and so on… I was being maligned, amongst the students as well as on social media, long before the complaint was filed, which I had no opportunity to counter and defend myself,” Shah told the ICC.
Shah did not respond to two emails sent by The Indian Express seeking his comment.
Responding to queries from The Indian Express on Shah’s appointment as consultant, the Registrar’s officer stated: “As regards role/job responsibility assigned to Mr. Shah by the University, it is informed that Mr. Shah is appointed as Specialist Training under the State Resource Centre for Women in the Department of Women studies. His appointment is upto 11/11/2019. Further, it is informed that the recommendations of the Preliminary Inquiry/ fact finding conducted by the Internal Complaints Committee of the Goa University has issued warning letter to Mr. Shah.”
Responding to queries from The Indian Express on the complaint against her, HoD Desouza stated: “I have not been given a copy of the complaint, the statements or the ICC report so cannot comment on the same. Since the complainant had apparently included me in her allegations, I promptly recused myself from the hearings. My participation was limited to making a statement when the ICC asked me to make one.”