is 32 she is a Delhi-based independent journalist
IT WAS a little after seven in the evening when I sat in the university dean’s staff house, with an envelope in my hands. The envelope had been posted to my hostel room a few hours ago. It had a page or two torn from a porn magazine with typical images: a woman having sex with a man, a woman having sex with two men. It could have been scary for someone like me, who had never seen a porn magazine before, but the story got darker. The person who posted it had written my name on the woman and the men were given names of my male friends (is that what you call a friend who you are not dating or sleeping with?).
I recognised the handwriting of the man. Months before this incident, this man — Fatman — had become my big brother on campus and suddenly turned hostile because his ladylove and I were not talking to each other anymore. He had gifted me a couple of cards during his “brotherly” trip — on Rakhi and a birthday. Although he had taken great pains to write in different handwriting this time, even the dean could make out in one glance that the writer was the same person. On his ladylove’s instigation, Fatman had decided to “punish” me.
I met my father, informed him of what had happened and told him that I planned to file a formal complaint with the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), which deals with such cases in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where I had just written my graduation final year papers. My father, a lifetime comrade who even lost his job during the Emergency, heard this and said, “You only give legitimacy to such people by recognising their actions.” I knew he was being protective but this was not up for debate or discussion.
The formal complaint was filed. Next, I had to meet the rector of the university in his office. He did not seem interested in the case at all. The questions he asked me related to my academic background. How much did I score in 10th and 12th grades? After his questioning was over, he perhaps decided that I was a ‘good girl’ gone bad. And I kept wondering how my marks from the 10th grade were relevant to this case! Does this man, the rector of the most progressive university in the country, think such an act against a woman with weak academic performance is justifiable?
However, by this time, it seemed the whole university had geared up for action. Fatman was expelled and his membership of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) revoked without me ever approaching them. Fatman’s sidekicks, who indulged in my character assassination while bearing witness at the GSCASH inquiries, were told they could face the same consequence. They changed their versions at the committee and disclosed Fatman’s modus operandi of procuring the dirty literature. One of the worst testimonies against me came from a wealthy female classmate of Fatman, who had never even known me. I was quite amused at the ease with which this woman was involved in this regressive, misogynistic criminal activity.
The drama started at the beginning of summer break and by the end of it, Fatman was rusticated from the university and his lady love was thrown out of the hostel for a year. It was the biggest punishment a JNU administration had given on GSCASH’s recommendation. My father received an official mail from GSCASH, informing him of the university’s decision. I think, for the first time, he felt assured that I was growing up fine.
A senior member of GSCASH once asked me, for counselling purposes, if I felt guilty in any way. I told her that it was the proudest moment of my life to be standing up against what was wrong. I felt like a woman.