Thursday, 24 December 2015
Christmas Eve: Police
I am coming out as one of the complainants in the sexual harassment battle at SRFTI (Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute), Kolkata. My name is Kunjila. It is my online handle and i have been using it for over four years now. People may know who i am, but that’s the name i am going to use and going to be addressed by.
It was in early December that i approached the dean of the institute to share my worries regarding my Playback project. The edit of the project was pending and i wanted to have a talk with him on a personal level as a person i trusted here. I did not want to continue with my student editor and i had given him all the reasons for it in writing earlier. Decision had been taken without my knowledge and it was against me. This time when i went i wanted to let him know that the matter was quite serious, that i was in fact feeling threatened by the student. I was really disappointed with the reply he gave me. I realized that my institute was a very bad place for a woman to have got sexually harassed. Then it all came back to me. All the abuse that i had undergone silently, without letting even a person in the institute know, without daring to speak out. It was high time i did, and i wanted a platform.
I approached the director of the institute with a letter asking him to kindly set up a sexual harassment wing in the institute. To my surprise he told me that it already had one. I learned that all government educational institutions were supposed to have one. I requested him to quickly revive the committee because i was sure that like me, most students had no knowledge of its existence.
A day later, a meeting was summoned by the chairperson of the committee called the Internal Complaints Committee(ICC), Ms. Putul Mehmood, who is a professor here. She summoned all the girls of the institute and asked us to share our problems, if any. A flurry of verbal complaints were made to my own surprise at the meeting. I realized that all that was lacking till then was such a platform. The complaints were many and serious and outrageous. The kind of harassment that was happening in the institute had to be stopped quickly.
Some girls were willing to make signed complaints. I myself made three. About two professors and a student. Following multiple complaints including mine in three or four days’ time three professors were suspended. You can read about it here.
I am writing this after the committee’s submission of preliminary report. The institute acted upon one of my complaints because they found it to be extremely serious. They forwarded the complaint to the police. On the night of 23rd December 2015, i was caught unaware when the hostel warden called me up and said that the police were at the gate asking for me.
The police’s and the institute’s combined insensitivity resulted in a tense night. Not only was i not informed about the arrival of police but was also subjected to harassment by them. There was one lady officer and two male officers. Only one spoke English. The lady officer did not even speak Hindi so it was impossible for me to communicate with her. I said that i was not prepared to give a testimony because i was unaware that the police would be approached and that i had to seek advice from some people. I approached the chairperson of the ICC, Ms. Putul Mehmood. She tried to understand what it was about by trying to get in touch with the registrar who had signed the letter which was forwarded to the police. Conveniently enough, it was switched off. She accompanied me to the main gate where the police were waiting. I asked them to give me time till the next morning. I wanted to talk to my friends who knew about the complaint to make sure that it was the right decision. I needed some support and preparation as well. The male police officer was jumpy and was shouting most of the time. He iced his behaviour by asking me if i could give him my rapist’s number. I asked him to return with a lady police officer who spoke English and to speak sensibly to me. Putul ma’am asked the security guards to kindly leave the room for some time. Till then the police officer was talking to me taking names and describing contents of the complaint in front of them all!
After talking to Putul ma’am, Amitabh sir and my friends, that night i decided that i would go ahead with the police complaint. The news about Adwaita that i had read a day or two ago had also given me a lot of hope. Her videoinspired me to a great extent. Thanks, everyone who helped me make that decision.
Now to the nature of the complaint. This is the link to the complaint i gave to the ICC. To put it it simple words, if words can be simple that way,
I was raped by a professor of SRFTI in the year 2014.
I was coerced into having sex with him.
I was physically abused by him. He slapped me once and tried to strangle me while sexually abusing me once.
He forced me to have unprotected sex with him saying that he had an erection problem.
He asked if he could have a threesome with me and my then boyfriend.
He used all his power as a professor here to intimidate me into silence.
Long after i completely ended the sexual violence that i was being subjected to, he entered my room without my permission and retreated when he saw that i was in a video call with my friend. This is the link to the testimony she gave for me to the ICC. She made it public weeks ago with my permission. If you read it you will see how difficult it was for me to get out of abuse and to at first even understand how i was being abused. Such is the atmosphere in this place. It has to change and i hope this complaint will help it change in some way.
So on Christmas Eve 2015, after making sandwiches for breakfast i waited for the phone call from Kolkata police. They came to take my testimony at around 11.30 a.m. Putul ma’am accompanied me this time as well. The situation was only slightly better than the previous night. There was a lady police officer who could speak hindi and a male officer who spoke English. There was no help from SRFTI authorities to conduct the police’s investigation. Imagine me being asked how to obtain permission to take a look at the guest house register. Putul ma’am said she would try to help by putting in a letter to ask the authorities to appoint someone to assist the police with such matters. I gave my testimony. I was asked to show the places of crime for them to take pictures. There were five. Two were shut. However when they opened up the room of the guest house where i was raped when i was bleeding and the linen was soaked in my menstrual bed and i was sick seeing it and sick thinking of what the guest house staff was going to speak about me and what they were going to do to me and what i could do about it and where then the professor just dismissed all my fears by saying that it was no big deal, then i felt weak in my legs and leaned on to a table there. It was terrible and i felt sorry for all the women who had ever had to undergo this kind of procedure. I doubted my decision to have proceeded with the complaint and then moved out to show the next location where i was raped. A very merry christmas indeed.
I have no fear now. The complaint i made about Prof. Y was about the incident when he tried to get intimate with me in a party held at another professor’s house. He had put his arm around my waist and because he was my professor instead of slapping him what i had said was ‘sir, can you please not do that’. Now that, people is called power equation. Just saying, if you still haven’t got it. That was in 2013. I had also complained of the sexually coloured remarks he used to make in class about me. Once when i had returned to campus after a vacation he came to me and remarked ‘Put on weight? It was kind of evident from where i was standing (behind me), if you know what i mean?’
The complaint about the student was one requesting the institute to not force me to work with him as it was doing because he had sexually abused me in the past. After being friends with me for a long time and after even having hosted me and my then boyfriend in his room he kissed me forcibly. Later asked me to have sex with him and forced me to do it twice and i had denied. The second time i had left the room and stopped talking to him. Later due to lack of other options i was forced to work with him. During a project he accidentally lost a memory card which contained a day’s footage. I attempted suicide following this incident. Later i got to know that he had told his friends that after i denied him sex he had wanted to take revenge on me. During my playback project he let me know that he didn’t want to work with me. I assumed that he had again mixed personal and professional up and had taken that decision because he was one of the accused in a complaint i had given against ragging earlier this year. Still the institute asked me to work with him. I let the institute know that i felt threatened to be in the same room as him. Nobody could say when he would feel like having sex with me again or throwing acid on my face depending upon if it was sex or revenge that he wanted.
So that is the state of affairs. I hope i get justice. By justice i really don’t mean capital punishment or jail term. Oh i am against capital punishment by the way. And the state too, if you ask me, talking about jail term etc. Well, by justice i mean a change of environment. By justice i mean this not being repeated. Honestly i used to get scared whenever i saw these professors talk to any female student. I would just imagine all sorts of bad things being done to them women. One thing that a person who has been abused does not want is the abuse being repeated to anybody at all. I am glad that the ICC has been revived and is fully functional now. I am glad that more and more women are speaking up. I am glad that change is happening. To those on campus and elsewhere who have come up with ‘but we thought it was consensual’ lines, [one of the lines i heard here was ‘but they looked so happy together’!] Well, to them i have to say that i remember my ‘no’s’. If you still haven’t got it, NO only and always means NO. I know when a person is happy she doesn’t cry every night and resort to masochism by scarring her wrist. And once and for all, what you think doesn’t matter. When i say that it was not consensual, i mean it as i know it.