Pune: Over 110 Students, Alumni Of ILS Law College Allege Sexual Harassment, Caste-Based Discrimination

Pune: Over 110 Students, Alumni Of ILS Law College Allege Sexual Harassment, Caste-Based Discrimination

Officiating principal Deepa Paturkar rejected the allegations as "false and baseless"

Indu BhagatUpdated: Friday, May 24, 2024, 03:13 PM IST
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Pune: Over 110 Students, Alumni Of ILS Law College Allege Sexual Harassment, Caste-Based Discrimination | Facebook

The students and alumni of ILS Law College have written a letter to the Bombay High Court, alleging issues of institutional casteism, sexual harassment, ragging, and hooliganism, as well as inaction by the college administration. Over 110 students and alumni stated that they have been denied the opportunity to organise a Phule Ambedkar memorial lecture for three consecutive years. Students have also alleged favouritism among faculty, especially in appointments to bodies like the Moot Court Society or the Anti-Ragging Committee.

One of the students told The Free Press Journal, “A Muslim student had Islamophobic remarks written outside his room. When students tried to speak up, they had to face threats of criminal cases from a professor. We have all been seeing favouritism by faculty, which has led to the appointment of Brahmin students to various bodies. The demands made in the letter are very basic, and we hope they will go a long way in securing a dignified environment for students in the years to come.”

The letter has requested the court to maintain anonymity of the signatories for fear of backlash and penalisation at the hands of faculty or administration of the college. The letter demands a codified "diversity and inclusion policy" aimed at ensuring equitable representation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, gender minorities, and religious minorities.

The letter also mentions two cases of sexual harassment where action has still not been taken. In one such case of stalking and molestation of a student by a classmate that continued from (2018-2020). Despite lodging a complaint with college authorities and subsequent inaction, the student escalated the matter to the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, prompting media attention in 2020.

An alumna of ILS said, “I faced clothes policing and sexism in college where the administration was not even apathetic, they actively encouraged and promoted sexist behaviour by professors. ILS is not complying with UGC guidelines and still, the complacency and blatant disregard for women and gender minorities are evident with the statement given by the Acting Principal that men need representation in the committee. And even when I was in college, the same violations of UGC guidelines were taking place despite many cases of sexual harassment taking place.”

The FPJ spoke to women students who supported the claims regarding inappropriate personal comments on the clothes of female students in college by the faculty and said that no action had been taken.

Meanwhile, officiating principal Deepa Paturkar rejected the allegations as "false and baseless". "I have all the documents and reports with me, and if required, I am ready to show them to the concerned authorities. In the sexual harassment case from 2021, the student complaining against a classmate was false; it was a case of cross-complaining due to some personal matter. In the second instance, 15 students complained against a classmate, of which eight had taken back their complaint after the response of the accused." Paturkar added, "Our campus has enough caste diversity, and we did celebrate the Phule Ambedkar lecture on some other date due to logistical reasons."

Another group of students opposed the allegations made by their collegemates and said, “These allegations are false and cowardly; it’s a baseless attempt to defame the ILS college and its students by the separatist forces.”

What are their demands?

1. An independent inquiry committee should be established to investigate these claims and ensure the effective functioning of grievance redressal bodies for sexual harassment, ragging, and caste discrimination.

2. There should be a codified 'diversity and inclusion policy' to ensure effective representation of SC, ST, OBC, gender minority, and religious minority students.

3. The abhorrent, sexist, and misogynist dress code that has existed in ILS should be repealed immediately so that students can consider the campus a safe space where they won't be objectified, shamed, and harassed by the faculty based on the clothes they wear.

4. The college should undertake immediate sensitisation of students, teaching, and non-teaching staff around issues of caste-based and ethnic discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, sexual harassment, and ragging.

5. To ensure accountability in all aspects of college life, there should be an officially recognized student body based on free and fair elections and effective representation of marginalized communities by means of reservations for all students from the college.

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