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NLSIU re-opens sex harass probe against 2 students as whistle blown on perpetrators who appeared to celebrate acquittal

Context is everything (photo via Facebook)
Context is everything (photo via Facebook)

NLSIU Bangalore has re-opened sexual harassment investigations barely 10 days after it closed a December 2016 investigation, following a photo allegedly mocking the incident that had kicked off the original inestigation was shared on a WhatsApp group of male students of the law school, reported The Bangalore Mirror.

The Sexual Harassment Investigation Committee (SHIC) had cleared charges against two students accused of sexual harassment on 17 January 2018, on the ground that there was not sufficient evidence against them.

On 26 January, one NLSIU student shared a photo picturing one of the two accused students carrying two oranges, in an apparent reference to the harassment charges that they just been cleared of.

According to a Facebook post by a student on 24 January:

In December 24, 2016, two NLSIU students, then in their second-year, had anonymously sent a parcel with two oranges and a note to a female batch mate. The note read: “You know what I mean!!! Use it, feel it #FeelBig #BigDreamDiaries from- BigPlanet.Com.”

According to a Facebook post by a student on 24 January, the parcel sent with oranges to the female student was “making a clear reference to her breasts” and that “when confronted by her and a couple of her friends, they confessed to having done it, but insisted that it was only a prank”.

After the picture with the oranges was shared on the private WhatsApp group - which apparently consisted only of boys - the other accused allegedly sent messages aggressively defending the photo against reactions by other group members’, who had called out the photo as offensive, according to screenshots of conversations posted on Facebook.

One of the WhatsApp group members asked the group, according to those screenshots, how those messages had even “reach[ed] to girls”, with another member of the group replying: “I don't see why that is a problem. If you're saying stupid shit, people will call you out for it... It's shameful that you guys don't learn.

"The point isn't that it reached women, the point is that what you did and said was wrong.”

According to the Facebook post, the 17 January order had the proviso that the SHIC would re-open investigation against the two accused students if any additional evidence against them surfaced.

However, NLSIU faculty member Yahsomathi Ghosh told the Mirror that “the incident that happened on the WhatsApp group is different for what happened on the Christmas Eve and it was a difficult case”.

“NLSIU is very cognizant of this issue and we have absolutely taken care of it. An elaborate report is given to the Vice-Chancellor and the registrar regarding the WhatsApp picture. Sensitivity and gender issues are carefully handled at NLSIU,” Ghosh told the Mirror.

The SHIC has taken cognizance of the WhatsApp group incident and submitted “an elaborate report” to the vice chancellor Venkat Rao, who confirmed investigation had been re-started, and the registrar.

One NLSIU student commented through a Facebook post that the “brazen display of shamelessness” in sharing the picture of the perpetrator holding oranges and then being aggressively defended demonstrates that “not only are they unashamed of their actions, but consider it something to be proud of and celebrated. The impunity with which sexual harassers roam on campus is unacceptable and reflective of a culture where violence against women is tolerated”.

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