Opinion: Harassment, Silences and Indian Academia- by Mohan J Dutta

Professor Mohan J Dutta writes a powerful piece about sexual harassment and the criminal silence that frequently follows:

The story of Chuni Kotal of Gohaldohi village haunts me.

Each time I remember the story, I, an upper caste, upper class, heterosexual male who has built my career from fieldwork in these haunted spaces of Paschim Midnapur, writing stories of hunger and suffering, feel the pain and the shame, and the sense of my own caste complicity crawls up my skin.

I was 19 when Kotal committed suicide in my hometown, Kharagpur, a few miles from where I was studying at the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

As the first woman from her long-stigmatised community to attend college, Kotal struggled through the everyday racisms that are built into progressive performing Bengali bhadralok society.

Kotal, a young Adivasi and the first woman graduate among her tribe of the Lodha Shavars, committed suicide on August 16, 1992 at the age of 27.

The cause of Kotal’s death: the ongoing caste-based harassment and discrimination she faced in various academic institutions, and more proximately, in her telling, at the hands of her professor, Falguni Chakarvarti, at Vidyasagar University. At the time of her death, Kotal was pursuing her MA in anthropology.

Harassment, Silences and Indian Academia

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