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Nalsar students & admin step up to deal with open letter alleging campus sexual assault

Nalsar figures out how to deal with an open letter that has opened a rather complex can of worms
Nalsar figures out how to deal with an open letter that has opened a rather complex can of worms

The Nalsar Hyderabad student bar council (SBC) has issued an official statement on the alleged campus sexual harassment and assault that was first revealed in an anonymous open letter published on the Facebook page of The Nalsar Community. The post has since gone viral and been picked up by some non-legal media.

The SBC impressed the importance of respecting the “choice and consent of the aggrieved in choosing to approach the appropriate forums”, while also requesting vice chancellor Faizan Mustafa not to “roll back or compromise” on the liberal environment prevailing on campus by introducing “outdated regressive rules”.

SBC president is Yugal Jain told us that the vice chancellor had been very supportive and that there was no suggestion that the university would introduce regressive rules. The statement, he explained, was merely precautionary, in case external pressure would force the college’s hand to institute stricter norms.

The statement added that the SBC would seek to foster “discussion and sensitization” on campus over the issue.

Jain added that the university was “taking all necessary steps to support her (if she comes forward) but at a larger level we’ve already started all those student discussions with the administration and student body”.

The original open letter was one unnamed student’s very personal account of how she is trying to come to terms with the alleged sexual harassment and assault by her unnamed best friend.

We understand that the author of the open letter has remained anonymous and that her identity is not widely known on campus.

Nalsar associate professor of law Nimushakavi Vasanthi, who heads the college’s committee against sex harassment (CASH) has already circulated a detailed email to students with advice.

Nalsar professor Amita Dhanda had left the following messages under the original Facebook post:

Keep strong and keep well. I think it is important to speak out both in public and private as to what is meant by consent. How each process in a relationship needs to be consented. A consent to spend an evening drinking together, holding hands and teasing each is a consent for just that and no more. In not seeking consent each step of the way be it man or woman is not only being disrespectful of the other, it is also robbing yourself of the high of finding pleasure through reciprocity and real acceptance. In protesting you are insisting on that reciprocity and I hope your disclosure gets all of you young women and men to honestly deliberate on this pathology of human relationships.

We have just reached out to Nalsar VC Faizan Mustafa, asking if he would like to comment and will update the story if he responds.

Update 17 September: Mustafa has sent us a comment yesterday, which we have now published here.

The Nalsar SBC statement

Recently, the NALSAR student body learnt of an alleged instance of sexual harassment.

The Student Bar Council condemns any act of sexual harassment. The Student Bar Council wishes to reassure the aggrieved and other students that such instances of sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

While we have an existing mechanism in place to address any complaint of sexual harassment, it is imperative to respect the choice and consent of the aggrieved in choosing to approach the appropriate forums.

The Student Bar Council also identifies the dire need to address the larger points raised in the Open letter.

Further, the Student Bar Council shall strive to create a conductive environment to foster discussions and sensitization on campus. Steps are also being taken to make the institutional structures more accessible and sensitive to students’ needs.

In light of this complaint, we also request the Vice Chancellor not to roll back or compromise on the extant liberal standards of campus rules. The incident should not be used to bring back outdated regressive rules.

We are convinced that a conductive debate can take place only in a liberal environment.

Photo by Anjaneyadas.

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