Monday, 3 October 2016

HOW SRFTI LET YOUNG STUDENTS BE RAGGED. AGAIN.

I made a(nother) mistake.
When the 13th batch of SRFTI was ragged and i stopped it  by calling the police, i made the mistake of withdrawing my police complaint. I made the mistake of  not writing about the injustice that was done me and the juniors. Well, here i am again, with yet another batch, the 14th batch, which was ragged. Brutally, violently.

I need to begin at the beginning to explain how SRFTI has been a hunting ground for professors who sexually harass women and students who exercise power over other students in the guise of 'interaction' as ragging is being called in SRFTI of late.

In August 2015, i went to the terrace of the old hostel because i was unable to endure the violent shouts that were audible from my room. Ragging was happening in the full view of almost the whole of the student population, the security guards and the hostel warden. I went in there. Three of my other classmates also were there fighting the mostly drunk senior students (most of them our own batchmates). The video below is what happened when i went in there asking if any of the junior students wanted to leave the terrace. Violence was unleashed on me and others. We were pushed around the terrace. Shouted at. Mostly abuses. They were taunting us. Why don't you call the police? Well, i did.




The police came and under the threat of senior students, probably, the junior batch who was ragged came to the main gate where i was standing with the police and they told the police that everything was fine and no ragging had happened. I told them that it was okay if they felt that they were not ragged but that i was complaining against the ragging i witnessed and the way i was treated in the terrace. I wrote a complaint, signed it and left. Ragging stopped. An enquiry was initiated.

All the men whose names were in the complaint i had made with the police went to the then Dean Nilotpal Majumdar and pleaded that the complaint be withdrawn. The Dean spoke to me personally requesting me to withdraw the police complaint. I said that i would withdraw the complaint if they wrote an apology letter admitting their crime. All of them signed such a letter and gave me and i assured them that i would withdraw the police complaint. One of them mocked me right there. Saying something to the effect that i should frame their apology letter and exhibit it in my place forever. As if that would give me gratification. I said nothing.

The enquiry found that ragging had happened. This was in spite of a big number of 13th batch students who were ragged signing a paper saying there were not ragged at all. In the enquiry it was clearly established that ragging had taken place even though the junior students were denying it. I mean, if somebody says that 'I was never ragged by seniors, but yes, they called me a sisterfucker and asked me to climb a chair and hold a broom pretending that it's a boom pole...' it becomes quite evident. However, the Dean's Council took no action on the students who were found guilty of ragging. Thus they escaped my police case as well as disciplinary action from the institute. Ain't this a nice little heaven for raggers!

And of course after that incident most of my  batchmates, juniors etc stopped talking to me. I got used to it. Till when sexual harassment cases against professors and students came up. What enraged me the most apart from my own complaints against professors and students was that two of the accused students were from the list i had complained against during ragging. If action had been taken against them when i complained, two girls wouldn't have got sexually harassed. Do you realize what SRFTI did to those girls? Those girls were subjected to sexual harassment which was sanctioned by the institute simply because they refused to take action on the complaint of ragging. [My complaint against one of the raggers on grounds of sexual harassment was based on events which had happened before the ragging incident. But the other student sexually harassed two women students after he was let off without any punishment].

I got used to being alone, was completely shunned by the 'safe' girls and others in SRFTI including professors and higher authorities for having complained against sexual harassment. I got used to the isolation and formed a small group of people whom i could talk to and be happy with. The battle against sexual harassment wore us women down but at the same time strengthened us to take up battles and other forms of injustice. So after we officially won the sexual harassment battle and got two professors who violated female students sent under compulsory retirement, we were all, a little relieved of all our stress and may be started eating in peace. Then the 14th batch arrived.

I became my paranoid self. I did not want to call the police one more time because this time if that happened i was not going to withdraw my complaint and settle for an apology. I was going to make sure that an FIR is lodged which is what should be done in all ragging complaints and that would mean that students who ragged, if any, would end up in jail. More than becoming the bitch once again it was the certainty of my decision which made me write an elaborate mail to the authorities urging them to prevent ragging at all costs. Ms Putul Mahmood, professor is the only person who replied me, assuring me that all would be done to prevent ragging. I putting the mail on record here.


Hi,
Dear professors and others,
Writing to you to talk about ragging before the new batch joins institute. As we all know SRFTI has a horrible history of ragging. I am CCing the mail to some professors and students who are aware of the situation. It was to Putul ma'am, Saikat sir and Somdev sir who had assured me in first year that i could approach them in case the seniors threatened me again because they stayed on campus. For the same reason [because he too now stays on campus] i am asking you to copy Karmakar sir as well. Don't seem to have his mail id. I am copying some students who have fought against ragging in earlier occasions so that they are also in the loop.

I am writing this letter to plead with you, Amaresh sir, and Ghoshal sir, that i do not want to call the police this time. We don't want 14th batch to be ragged. Ragging is an inhuman practice and the Supreme Court of the country has definite guidelines as to what constitute ragging. We all know it and i think instead of pressurizing people like me who cannot put up with this violence if it is happening in my vicinity, to call the police or lodge repeated complaints and earn the wrath of supporters of ragging, it will be great if we take some preventive measures. I am requesting the following because sadly i don't see the institute do anything regarding this. I know of the anti ragging booklet that is usually given but it did not seem to be of much use with the 13th batch as all of us are aware.

1. I have designed a poster which i think will be of some use and will make future students aware of their rights. Could you please take print of this [i don't have money to do that, or else i would have done it] and distribute it among all the junior students who are going to arrive on Monday. Kindly print it and post it on all walls of the institute as well especially canteen, main theatre entrance, hostels [male female and the new block], mess [on the door and inside] admin building, Old CRT, new CRT and integrated notice boards, all department entrances, OAT, Library, Internet room, newly formed reading room of library etc. I think this will send a strong message to those who intend to rag their juniors.
2. On the first day of integrated course when faculty are introduced, please let me or any other student ccd in this mail talk to the junior students and make sure that they know they have seniors here who do not support ragging. I think we can distribute the poster at the same time. This is an attempt to reassure students. This was not done ww. ith 11th,12th,13th batches and all three suffered. [12th batch was ragged 'secretly' in individual hostel rooms].
2. There is a female security guard posted in front of Amaresh sir's Director's room. Doing the same thing in the old and new hostel will be great. In fact, a guard or two should be posted in front of the entrance of the terrace. I hope both the wardens will be alert and available throughout the night during the first month because ragging usually is conducted throughout the length of the night.
3. In spite of all this if ragging continues or if there are complaints please make sure that an FIR is fired and not taken back [like i was forced to do by ex-dean Mr Nilotpal Mjumdar] and let the guilty students go scot-free [like what was done with the raggers of 13th batch]. If police has to be called [like last year] please ensure that i or any other student don't have to do it, but someone from Administration does it. Eg: the hostel wardens

expecting your kind co-operation,
Will you believe me if i say that none of this was done? That's right. I had sent the mail to the Director, two professors who were part of the anti-ragging committee and the Dean. This, by the way, was the responsibility of the students' association. I am not aware of any such step taken by the same to prevent ragging. Soon, all of us understood why the students' association was not 'in the mood' to do any of their duties.
As you know I share your distaste for ragging and am acutely aware of the legal position on it too.
I have raised this issue in the faculty meeting already.  I do hope that it will be dealt with proactively. I have also pointed out to all concerned that I have been part of both Inquiry Committees on ragging in the past as well as the Sexual Harassment Inquiry. Therefore have requested the faculty to please keep me out of the Committee looking into prevention and tackling of ragging this year.
I do appreciate your idea of the poster and am sure it will help. I will put up your suggestions to the Dean too.

Putul.
This was the only reply i got for that mail. The Dean never gave me permission so as always i went to the 14th batch, the freshers, the next day and spoke to them. I took a print of the poster i had made and made 70 copies of it, paying from my mother's hard earned salary. I distributed the pamphlets. I have simply hidden the complete names and phone numbers of the people mentioned, otherwise the pamphlet i distributed looked like this:




After distributing this pamphlet in a day's time i heard from a few junior students that members of the Students' Association had gone to them and said that they shouldn't approach the 'pamphlet people' and should only approach the Students' Association. I was enraged because not only were they not doing their job but when a group of students without creating any fuss had undertaken what was their job they were only interested in blocking that path. I just couldn't understand why they were doing it. They should have been happy that somebody had done their job free of cost. Pretty soon i realized why.

The day after i distributed the pamphlets, Debja Ni, my neighbour, told me that she had heard ragging happening in the room right next to hers. She had heard one Students' Association member, the Vice President, to be precise, engaging in ragging with other students whose voices she easily recognized. We immediately went to Mr Debashish Ghoshal, HoD of Audiography and said that this had happened. I asked him to address all students with a bunch of faculty and say that they would stand by the students in case of any complaint against ragging. He agreed. But since he had not done anything which i had suggested in the earlier mail, Debja Ni and i went to the freshers' classroom once again and showed them the video that i posted above. Of ragging which had happened to 13th batch. We ensured them again that anybody could complain and told them how important it was to break free of this cycle of abuse.

Later i learnt that the faculty had addressed the students. Clearly, that did not work. Why? Because after some weeks, some 14th batch freshers approached Kalhan Raina, 13th batch, with a complaint of ragging. I happened to be around when the students were talking to Kalhan and i was shocked and broken. Ragging had happened. And i failed to stop it. SRFTI had again sanctioned ragging by their irresponsible behaviour and yet another group of unsuspecting, mostly homesick students who were here out of their passion for cinema had been violated.

Kalhan and i heard a few accounts of ragging and quickly realized two horrific things. 
  • Ragging which had happened was more brutal than the previous time. This time it had happened in rooms which are more closed spaces than the terrace. 
  • Students' Association members and leaders were actively involved in ragging. Some of them were even part of anti-ragging committee constituted by SRFTI. [The student part of it]
We told them that it was necessary to protest and make complaints. After assuring them that nothing was going to happen to them if they complained, all of us spent another disturbed night.
The next day i got news of another incident that had happened. Under the leadership of a Students' Association member, an 'Onam' celebration was held in the hostel mess. It was supposed to be people cooking but pretty soon, to our horror, we realized that the mess had been turned into a bar. People got sloshed and puked in there. We are speaking of a place where almost all students eat thrice a day and also a space in which the people who cook round the clock to feed SRFTI sleep at night.
I was told that during the same 'Onam' celebration, a female fresher student had been held by the scruff of her neck and had been forced to drink alcohol. I heard this and left the room immediately to speak to people. I didn't know which people or where to begin. I decided to just speak.

A group of us again went to the 14th batch and spoke in detail about ragging. We asked if they were facing any problems. What followed was a deluge of verbal complaints. They had been ragged and there were more people than we expected. They had nowhere to go because the anti-ragging squad itself was engaged in ragging and the professor/Dean in charge they approached had told them that these were not serious complaints and that everything would get over with the freshers party.
I gave a ring to Mr Debashish Ghoshal and asked him to kindly come to Main Theatre where all the students were seated. He came and started off with telling me that i don't get to decide things in SRFTI. Even before i could retort the 14th batch retorted. They were asking for immediate action on their complaints. Girls, boys, everyone spoke. Mr Ghoshal returned with most of the faculty and told the students that they could file written complaints. They did. They said that they were not going to attend classes till action was taken. The very same day, all the students accused of ragging were suspended from hostel as well as academic activities.

Of course immediately word spread that me/my friends had instigated the freshers to make complaints and that no such thing as ragging had happened. Friends of suspended students started suspending their own classes in solidarity with students accused of ragging. They requested administration to lift the ban on academic activities. [I think the freshers said that that was okay with that. I am not sure]. After telling them the basics of how to and whom to write letters and how important it is to be strategic in any fight, we left the freshers to do what they had to. SRFTI was in media  again. The freshers spoke fearlessly to the press from what i gather from the quotes. FTII expressed solidarity with all the complainants. It was after that, that the students' association of SRFTI came up with their statement which they stuck on walls. They also stuck papers which read 'we condemn ragging'. A boy even wrote it on a dog's body. [He apologized later and cleaned the dog]. 
But soon i got news of how murky the enquiry committee procedures were. That called for another letter.


Hi authority,
...

Further on during the stages after complaints were made, tension between batches grew, as usual. People were abused for having complained [again by members of the student association, what a shame!]. Yesterday, on top of all this, we have received information regarding the behaviour of one of the members of the enquiry committee ms Oindrilla Hazra Prathapan. The statements that she said while being in the enquiry committee is enough to declare her unfit to be in the position. This is apart from the many misogynistic statements made by her in her capacity as a professor here. Many of such incidents have been reported. Coming back to the context she has said, in class that 'smaller' complaints can be talked over with the senior students who ragged. To one student complainant she said that he is not 'innocent' after all because he offered weed to a senior who ragged him. Let us keep the illegality of weed aside. [Punishment to that can be meted out separately along  with more than 50% of this institute who are addicts]. Suppose i asked a man to share a joint with me or let's replace it with coffee, he comes in and then he brutally rags me or sexually harasses me, is the police officer looking into the case allowed to make a statement like 'you weren't really innocent when you called him for weed/coffee'? The answer is obvious but i believe in SRFTI we have to state the obvious. Ms Oindrilla also said to the 14th batch students that 'your seniors are not cannibals' and that they should rethink. How would you feel is somebody robbed you and the police  officer said, please rethink because the robber is otherwise a good person? Absurdity! 
This calls for immediate action. As i see it, the best option is to suggest a vigilante group to suggest somebody to be part of the anti ragging enquiry committee. I am soon writing to the women's commission asking for the same since i don't know of any other group here. But as Bengalis, i am sure you would know better options. At any rate with these statements Ms Oindrilla cannot in any way proceed with the enquiry as it already reveals her proclivity to what is called a 'compromise'. The enquiry committee is a fact finding committee, not one which tells complainants what to do and certainly not one which passes comments on students' characters. I can be a sex worker [conventionally that occupation is demeaning, hence using the example] but still i have the right to complain against rape and still maintain my dignity as a woman. Also like how my complaint against Neeraj Sahay was forwarded to the police these complaints, if the enquiry is proceeding in this fashion, with a professor making such comments as its head, the 14th batch complaints should be forwarded to the police too. [But with their permission, please, and not like my complaint against Neeraj Sahay]
Again, i tell you, most people consider me an enemy of this institute but please understand that i am not the enemy, you are being one by letting this place of learning succumb to more and violence. If this is not curbed now in the most appropriate way, after my institutional rape we will have an institutional murder as well. I already see that kind of fear in the eyes of some kids in 14th batch.
Kindly take immediate action.
No surprises here. Nothing was done. Oindrilla Hazra continued as the head of the anti-ragging committee and the very next day after i wrote the letter of which an excerpt i have pasted above, the verdict came out. Contrary to what i had expected, it was a victory. I was relieved. All of us were relieved. Ragging was established in most cases and the guilty were punished. I congratulated the 14th batch for being so strong and for their unflinching determination. They fought for justice and got it. I thought i could get a good night's sleep that day but then there was Oindrilla Hazra's Enquiry Report. I am quoting some horrendous portions of it so that it goes on record. I am also telling the 14th batch that they have the right to question the verdict and put this report in the dust bin because it is mostly, crap. It is not my battle to fight. I don't think i have the energy to, either. But facts shall be facts and i shall never again make the mistake of not putting things on record.


...The manner in which X(Senior) spoke to Y(Junior) was uncalled for a breach of decency. Their feeling of outrage was further enhanced by Z's(Senior) drunken misbehaviour outside in the corridor and later in the evening on the terrace.
I can't make head or tail of the above portion. If someone is able to understand, kindly enlighten me. 


X(Senior) along with a senior member congregated in the incidence mentioned of deriving vicarious thrill from actively as well as passively participated in the discomfiture of other. 
It is possible that everyone is not comfortable expressing in English language. But in that case, the report had to be proof read so that grammatically it would make some sense? In the above sentence (which i think stands for three separate sentences, don't know) i urge the committee to make clear by what is meant by 'a senior member'. Member of what? Senior as in, old? Or a senior student? So why was student not written and why was member written? Actually why has this 'senior member' not been named? Surely, he/she should be punished for ragging from whatever little i can understand from the above statement? 

In another case comes the most incredible portion of the verdict.


X(Senior) was found guilty of ragging by inadvertently casing public insult. Y(Senior) did not intend to be rude, but her manner of speech is curt and direct and her personality is generally not friendly is easy to be misinterpreted. Also junior student find her unapproachable on matter of ragging and thus she had failed in her duty as a member of the anti ragging squad.
Last time i checked inadvertently meant accidentally. So a senior student was found guilty of ragging but the public insult was cased accidentally. Like she was carrying a big can of public insult and just happened to trip and fall in front of the junior student causing some public insult to accidentally/inadvertently fall on the junior student. Phew! That must have been hard.
Y did not intend to be rude. So what are you trying to say? That she only happened to be rude when the junior student was around? Oh but wait, her manner of speech is curt and direct and her personality is generally not friendly is easy to be misinterpreted. I am just waiting for an opportunity to slap some people who have spoken absolute crap to me. If they file a police complaint i shall say that that is my manner of speech and deed and that my personality is generally not friendly [it really is not]. I give 'bitch' vibes [i really do] and have lived with it all my life. But really, stating that as a reason for a complaint lodged against me would be funny even for me who likes jokes. 

Nevertheless, i congratulate the 14th batch for speaking up. It was exemplary. I hope ragging ends this year and i hope no more students will have to go through such atrocious behaviour from the part of senior students. Based on the enquiry committee's report from which i quoted, institute took action on most of the accused students. Some were suspended from hostel for a year. Some were fined. Nobody was banned from academic activities. *Applause* 14th batch. When you doubt yourself and when people pressurize you, remember, nobody nobody has the right to put you down or make you feel bad. Fight ragging so that you can end ragging.

3 comments:

  1. I am afraid to say that the environment in SRFTI [through your repeated posts on some or the other issue (all in SRFTI)]appears non conducive for students. If they are going to fight such things (in a way, wasting their creative energies) even for the things that are NOT ACCEPTABLE BY LAW, then when are they supposed to invest themselves for the objectives they have come for?

    Is this also not a reason behind the sub standard level of cinema (my definition of 'sub standard' may well vary with yours) we are getting even from the ones (may be, not all) who have passed out from such coveted institutes?

    Also, the administrative board, as it appears through your posts, could be that reckless is beyond my imagination. If the custodians of student welfare show this casual (to be read as Insensitive) approach, then where are the students (the 'genuine sufferers') should go?

    Also, digressing a bit, I know this to be a too sensitive an issue (& I might have formed an incomplete picture of all this) , yet I would want to ask you what was the cause of your delay (in lodging a complaint) in your own case (sexual harassment) ? I know, on such issues, one is always reeling under a constant fear/ embarrassment and what not but, as the proverbial statement goes, tolerating injustice is encouraging injustice and with somebody with such vocal a stature as yours, on whom, the ones who can't raise their voices also may count, it is a little disappointing to see that you kept all of this unreported for quite a while . I am not questioning your integrity on your stance. I am also not at a position to support either you or the ones against you (for the lack of my complete knowledge on all of this). It just that I want to see all of this through an unbiased neutral stand.


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    1. Accepting that you have been raped/abused takes time. Understanding it also takes time because our definition of rape applies to a very small spectrum of crimes in which you have a bleeding woman, attacked or killed. After i realized the kind of abuse that was done me, i had decided that i would write an anonymous letter to the institute regarding that AFTER i passed out. I did not want to confront my professors or classmates or batchmates whom i once had respect for or with whom i was once friends. Then i was forced to complain because the then dean of the institute mocked me and one verbal complaint of sexual harassment that i had made. It was the right decision. If i had written after i had passed out, NOTHING would have happened.
      [I have answered too many questions of 'being a feminist and an outspoken person why didn't you complain then and there. Now it does not affect me anymore but i maintain that it is very unfair. When i see any woman who is vocal or doing good in what she does, the first thing i hope these days is that i don't get to see a post by her later of the tales of she having been abused. The psychology of abuse is such that there is more unspoken abuse than there is on papers.]

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  2. This is awesome article.I get many useful point through this post. I would like to thanks for providing these information. Thank you for sharing it.
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