On 23rd of July 2016, almost everyone who had graduated from Kolkata saw their Facebook timelines dominated by one thing. One student decided to speak up about the routine sexual abuse she faced from an undergraduate student from Jadavpur University, named Ekalavya Chaudhuri. Over a period of three years, she received unsolicited attention, via lewd text messages, online messages, and even physical molestation. Not only did she have to bear with the repeated unwanted sexual advances, she alleges she was bullied relentlessly by a female friend of Chaudhuri's, named Janhabi Mukherjee, from Presidency University.
Turns out, this student wasn't the only one. She was simply the first to speak up. Twelve other women followed, alleging that they too were part of this almost systematic abuse—substantiating the allegations with screenshots and verbal reports. Two of the women who suffered were 15 years old at the time, with the other women being from undergraduate batches.
Of course, as is always the case, there was a fair bit of victim blaming that went on. A lot of people questioned why these women didn't block the abuser in the first place, why they simply didn't ignore it, or why they didn't report it. A report had been made, JU looked into the matter, and Chaudhuri was asked to receive counselling; but as we can see from what happened later, it was to no avail.
However, what may be lauded is the way the rest of the community stood behind these women. While the Facebook posts were being deleted for not fitting Facebook's “Community Guidelines,” there were students who were still sharing the message, letting the women know that they weren't alone, that there was an entire section of fellow classmates, friends, and acquaintances who believed them, and that the fact that this boy was influential had no bearing on them.
Two of the women have now filed formal complaints against the accused today, in the university's anti-sexual harassment cell, while the rest are waiting for legal counsel. A General Body Meeting has been called to pass a resolution so that formal proceedings may be initiated in the University’s sexual harassment cell.
The survivors, who do not want to be named, released a joint statement just a few hours ago:
“We are a group of (up till now,13) women and girls who have been harassed, both online and in person, by Ekalavya Chaudhuri, son of Chandrayee Niyogi, (Professor, Department of English) who is also a student of Jadavpur University, Department of English. We have been touched without our consent. We have been objectified filthily. We have been made to feel like pieces of meat by a man who is utterly despicable. He believes that his actions will not yield any consequences. In many cases, he has been aided and abetted by his acquaintance, Janhabi Mukherjee of Presidency University, Department of English. She has harassed and intimidated us both in virtual spaces and in person.
Jointly, they have both used their privilege to try and keep us silent. Jointly, they have violated our bodies and our minds. Jointly, they have attempted to erase our own agency over our lives. Not anymore.
Today, we speak out as survivors of these vile, poisonous human beings. Today, we take a stand against crimes against women, patriarchy, elitism, entitlement, privilege, and bullying. We take this stand to retake our agency, to re-establish the narratives that were taken from us.
Ekalavya Chaudhuri, you are a molester. A sex offender. A sexual predator. Janhabi Mukherjee, you aided and abetted in his crimes, and are no less guilty.
We hope that our stand will encourage others to come forward with their own experiences which they have kept silent about for whatever reasons. It’s time we all spoke up, it’s time we ripped all their masks off.
Thank you for your support.”
Note: This is a developing story, and we will keep updating it as we receive more information.