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Lawrence Liang files Delhi HC writ vs Ambedkar U sex harass panel, while hidden battles rage online

As legal process continues, parallel internet proceedings against Liang ran into hurdlesAs legal process continues, parallel internet proceedings against Liang ran into hurdles

Well-known academic, Alternative Law Forum (ALF) founder and NLSIU Bangalore alumnus Lawrence Liang has appealed in the Delhi high court against Ambedkar University Delhi’s sexual harassment committee finding of March that he had harassed a female PhD student of another Delhi university, suspending him from administrative duties.

Liang has instructed senior advocate Akhil Sibal and advocates Jawahar Raja, Chinmay Kanojia and Aditi Pathak in his writ petition against the university, where he is a professor of law, and against the anonymous complainant.

The matter is before Justice Rajiv Shakdher, who in an order dated 9 April, ordered service of the petition on the university and the complainant.

According to an order dated 9 May, Shakdher also said the the University’s Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment should be included as a party, with which the parties agreed.

Advocate Sakshi Banga with advocate Anans Tanwar are appearing for the second respondent, who is the unnamed original complainant. The University is represented by senior advocate Arvind K Nigam, with advocates Abhimanyu Shreshtha, Nikhil Sharda and Mehtaab Singh Sandhu.

The next date of hearing is fixed for 23 August 2018, according to the Delhi high court case status.

We have reached out to Liang for comment, who had told us at the time of our initial story in March that the Ambedkar Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (CPSH) process leaked to the media was “only one part of the process provided by the CPSH rules. Those rules provide that both/either party can appeal the recommendations. [...] I can, and must, however, say this – I dispute the report in its entirety, its findings and recommendations included. Some persons have initiated selective leaks. These persons know that I have signed confidentiality rules and cannot respond.”

“Selective leaks demonize, cause a media trial, and proclaim guilt in advance. I am passionately committed to AUD, and have worked hard to build the school that I am a part of, and I intend to exhaust every channel open to me to clear my name,” he had added.

Parallel internet processes continue

While Liang’s legal and institutional appeals processes are ongoing, on the internet a parallel process has continued.

The Wikipedia page of Liang, as it currently stands, does not include any mention of the findings of the committee against him, despite having been widely reported in mainstream media. However, the “talk” section of the article - a kind of behind-the-scenes of how each Wikipedia article sausage is made - has erupted in discussion between those who would like to see the allegations mentioned and several Wikipedia editors, who have asserted that under the site’s rules, biographies of living persons (known as BLPs in Wikipedia’s acronym-heavy lingo) enjoy special protection in the online encyclopedia.

Liang’s article had seen so many rounds of edits that in turn added and reversed mentions of the sexual harassment allegations against Liang, that Wikipedia’s so-called ArbCom has ‘protected’ the article until October 2018. On Wikipedia, which famously styles itself as the free encyclopedia that “anyone can edit”, this de facto closes an article for edits to all users but the most hardcore with at least 500 edits under their belt.

One seasoned Wikipedia editor on the talk page wrote (links to translations of newbie-unfriendly Wikipedia-speak such as ‘sock puppetry’ added by us):

Unfortunately, that part was willfully left out of the content that the multiple SPAs/socks have tried to insert, which I suspect is why Nick [another Wikipedia editor who reverted some edits] does not show that much good faith. This is a pretty straightforward BLP issue and the discretionary sanctions for BLPs exist for specifically this reason. No one is actually trying to argue that the content shouldn’t or can’t be included, but the initial attempts to do so were rejected because they failed to comply with BLP—in other words, the wording requires some tact due to the still-uncertain legal status of the allegations, and it needed to be tweaked.

The implication is that people who had added the sections to Liang’s Wikipedia article were not neutral and had an axe to grind, beyond just the allegations. Some edits certainly bear out this concern, such as one that falsely claimed that Liang “was found guilty of sexual harassment and is currently seving [sic] a sentence after the due process”, though others were more balanced and corroborated.

Another discussion on the Wikipedia talk page currently also continues about whether Liang is high-profile enough for the allegations to be mentioned in any case, even if the legal process has not yet concluded.

While it does seem that in light of other Wikipedia articles including similar allegations, Liang’s article too should include a balanced account of what has been widely reported, it does also seem that Liang’s position as a well-known liberal has encouraged edits and attentions that are not necessarily neutral or related to the #metoo movement.

An online anti-Liang petition runs into other issues

Separately (or perhaps not), someone went through the effort to create a bespoke, fairly-slick petition campaign website, which models the well-known online petition website in its layout, but seems to have been a custom-design job and only features a single petition: “Infosys, revoke the prize given to Lawrence Liang!” (referencing the prize he was awarded in November 2017 “in recognition of his creative scholarship on law and society”).

On 25 April, that petition had made it into the mainstream media, though not for its self-claimed 237 supporters per se: the Mirror reported that:

Many people, with many followers on social media, found a mail in their inbox on April 23, saying, “Thank you for signing, (name of the signatory). You have signed to back this campaign ‘Infosys, revoke the prize given to Lawrence Liang!’ Before you go, tell your friends and family about it.” The mail then went on to give the links to the petition.

However, several journalists and Twitter users with major followings went public public stating that they had never signed it (nor, presumably, heard of this petition), and according to the Mirror:

The admin of the group running the youtoo petition responded with the clarification that the names which were added from two IP locations – [...] and [...], were removed. “Someone has been working overtime since last night to malign and actively sabotage the website. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused. We are not making up names and adding them to the petition.”

The fake petition’s link, with the names of alleged signatories, is no longer available online.

That domain was registered only on 12 April 2018 and now claims that its petition “has reached its goal”, but the website lists no details about who is behind its creation. We have reached out to an administrative contact provided in the domain registration last month, as well as last week, with the following queries, but have received no response:

  • what was your reason for starting a new website, rather than using or a similar platform that presumably have more advanced features to stop abuse?
  • who is behind this website? Why there are no contact or other details or information on the site about who created it, which would lend it greater credibility?

That is not to say that legitimate signatories to petitions against Liang do not exist. For instance, there was one Facebook post in 2017, when Liang had first been mentioned in the crowd-sourced Raya Sarkar list of alleged sexual harassers, before the committee finding against Liang, which was making a statement rejecting recognition of the Infosys for Liang. That post, where signatories seem to be more verified, had received support from around 58, in addition to the support of six groups (Dalit Camera, KrantiKali, The Nalsar Subaltern Diversity Organization, Zehen, Queer Feminist India Caucus, and Being Feminist).

But, as ever in such cases, it does raise interesting questions about the inter-relation of online processes versus the legal process.

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Like +21 Object -8 Keep Up the Fight 24 May 18, 20:41  interesting  top rated  controversial
Like other influential people, Liang has hired the best lawyers. He also has the Lutyens left elites defending him, either behind the scenes or in public (like Nivedita Menon, plus an obnoxious guy slut-shaming the victim of Twitter, whose name I will not mention and give free publicity).

This is going to be a true test for how gender friendly our judiciary really is.

I also suggest that you contact Raya Sarkar. She is a brave law graduate who started the whole thing by releasing the list. Since then, she has faced daily online abuse and hate.
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Like +12 Object -0 Guest 24 May 18, 20:50  interesting  top rated
Please update the story. A fresh petition with correct names has been filed. The group calls itself Fingertip Feminists, in response to Nivedita's Menon insulting term in her article defending Liang and criticising Raya Sarkar.
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Like +11 Object -0 Guest 24 May 18, 21:03  interesting
This report misses important points. Please note the following:

1) The fake names to petition were added from IP addresses in Bengaluru and Mumbai, and the petitioner state it was an attempt to sabotage the petition:

2) This is the correct petition:
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Like +20 Object -2 Hypocrisy 25 May 18, 11:16  interesting  top rated
Shame on Leftists and Sickulars for their silence on this. Why are all the human rights law people and activists from NLSIU so quiet?
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Like +15 Object -2 cookie 25 May 18, 18:01  interesting  top rated
There is no doubt Liang's clout is exerting pressure. Under ordinary situation Infosys would have revoked the prize had the recipient been a politician / bureaucrat but now suddenly they want due process and have said they will wait for courts to decide. From manipulating Wikipedia to calling up buddies in news channels to asking friendly academics to voice support Liang's PR machine is on overdrive, just the sort of thing his years at NLSIU bangalore primed him for. Am sure that in 2 years from now the lawsuit will have bogged down somewhere the victim would have moved on to building a career and Liang will enjoy a glass of whisky with his law school buddies cracking snide jokes about the victim while they smile at each other in the comfort of a nice shade.
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Like +4 Object -12 kianganz 25 May 18, 18:19 LI subscriber
I highly doubt that Liang manipulated Wikipedia. WP's internal workings are pretty hard to read sometimes, but it seems like standard WP editors stepped in after some people went overboard with edits that were not factual...
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Like +13 Object -1 Censor Scissor 25 May 18, 18:43  interesting  top rated
Stepped in to do what? Completely remove any trace of the fact that an inquiry has been made against him and found him guilty and took action against him? All of those are factual, and none of it currently appears on the Wiki Page. If that is not manipulation, I'm not sure what is.
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Like +1 Object -16 kianganz 25 May 18, 19:19 LI subscriber
If you follow the discussion on the Talk page, it doesn't seem like Liang stepped in - Wikipedia has a rather complicated and at times hard-to-follow process, and while I personally think the editors took the wrong approach here, there is no evidence to suggest that this happened at Liang's behest, but was rather an own goal from those who were initially over-enthusiastic in updating his article...
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Like +21 Object -1 cookie 25 May 18, 18:51  interesting  top rated
Kian you have to be blind to not see what is happening here. This happened before with AK Ganguly. At least Ganguly lost his WBHRC chairman post and NUJS post but Liang is coolly going about life while playing the allegations down as consensual, exaggerated and lies. The hoorrendous thing is that unlike A K Ganguly who is 70 years old Liang is just 40 and comes from a top NLU (best NLU). Its a known secret that with his law school buddies hes totally contemptful of this victim and regularly blames her for blowing things up. This is a cause Legallyindia needs to take up properly because if people like Liang can get away with it what faith will students have in the system?
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Like +12 Object -2 Guest 25 May 18, 23:06  interesting
The above comment is another example of "Liang's PR machine is on overdrive" (specifically "calling up buddies in news channels").

Shame on you too Kian. All those standing up in support to someone known to have used his/her position to sexually harass someone need to be called out.
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Like +4 Object -15 Rhinocracy 25 May 18, 18:02
I am neither a leftist nor a "sickular" (whatever that means). I am not a human rights law person nor an activist from NLSIU. Lawrence is a good man.
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Like +10 Object -0 Guest 25 May 18, 23:09  interesting
He might be a wonderful person. The particular acts of his that are in question were wrong, and his methodologies of continued denial are abhorrent.
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Like +13 Object -1 Boycott Liang 25 May 18, 19:00  interesting  top rated
If Harvey Weinstein can be blacklisted by the Oscars and condemned by all his peers, and now Morgan Freeman faces expulsion from the Screenwriters Guild, why can't Liang be stripped of the Infosys prize and expelled from AUD? Why are his peers from NLSIU and JNU silent?? Why did Nivedita Menon defend him life this? Why did Shamnad and India Jaising campaign for Justice Ganguly to be sacked from NUJS but are quiet here? Why is Amartya Sen, who was on the jury, so quiet? Clear double standards.
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Like +7 Object -2 Republic 25 May 18, 21:17  interesting
Hello Kian,

The Nation Wants to Know:

1) Why is LI silent on the NLSIU prof named in Raya's list?

2) Why is LI silent on the Jindal prof named in Raya's list? Pic and link below.
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Like +3 Object -0 Legal Thinker 26 May 18, 02:49
Awareness of action and respect for the other person is so important.
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Like +1 Object -1 Guest 14 Aug 18, 13:49
Sad that the case has been forgotten now. Liang continues in his post.
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Like +1 Object -1 Guest 14 Aug 18, 18:11
What did you expect? Justice?
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Like +1 Object -1 Boycott Liang 15 Aug 18, 10:48
This just makes my blood boil. The Lutyens lefties and NLSIU alumni are all silent. Not a squeak from so-called social justice warriors like Indira Jaising, Karuna Nundy, Menaka Guruswamy, Shamnad Basheer etc.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 15 Aug 18, 13:08
There's at least one person in this list against whom his student(s) could have filed similar charges. It's all a black, black clique.
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Like +0 Object -1 ZRS 15 Aug 18, 22:45
You actually expected anything from the NLS' cohort? These weeks of silence wasn't enough indication?
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