“Freedom Is Our Politics Too, And We Fight For It Everyday”: Testimonies Of Harassment By Asang Wankhede, SOAS

*As in other cases of gender-based violence (GBV), we predict that there may be other survivors against whom Asang Wankhede has perpetrated GBV. For this reason, we invite others to share their testimonies on this link anonymously, from anywhere in the world: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdJp3WMZdc7LNeEoXRh-PkUQeqers-rAQjgEO7Zh8fxBCoGuw/viewform

This is a letter addressed to the public at large generally and Asang Wankhede specifically. We are unanimously writing these testimonies after realising that we have been subjected to similar experiences of sexual and mental harassment by Asang Wankhede, a postgraduate law student at SOAS.

We have gone through the “institutional” processes available at the university, however we find them inadequate and unable to guarantee protection of our identity. Protection of our identity was especially necessary considering that this man yields considerable power on social media and in other social networks. He has easy access to resources and people who can malign our reputation.

We are sending this letter to Account for This Campaign in order for them to publicise or take action in our case. We give them permission to use this letter on social media while ensuring that no indication is made to our identities.

Please see this letter as a manifestation of ‘stay-away-from-that-man’ networks which have existed between women since times immemorial. The only form of justice we hope to achieve by publishing this letter anonymously is to shame this man and make his actions public. By making this letter public we want to caution and warn other women who have been, or are in contact with him hoping that they do not have to go through a similar ordeal.

Testimony 1

We are women with untold truths about your behaviour. We are women who have endured your harassment, your intimidation, and your constant sense of entitlement. It is sad that in these modern times of liberation, women — in all our wonderful diversities — still suffer united at the deplorable actions of men such as yourself: the self-labelled “good guy”.

Your inability to respect my wishes and the word, “no”, to your constant advances, was alarming and unbeknown to me, alluded to a much darker and more sinister behaviour. Thankfully for myself, your behaviour towards me ended at harassment. For my colleagues and fellow women however, I regretfully and with pain, cannot say the same.

I believe that upon receiving this letter, you will merely shoot down these accusations as lies against your character, perhaps as something “political”, or “sexist” or even “casteist”. You are wrong. I have no doubt that you will deny any and all responsibility for these accusations against you, and you will state that we, united women, are “simply out to get you”. You will probably use derogatory phrases to describe us, you will probably infer malicious behaviour in our intent, because we as women will never “rise to such heights” as your apparent success. Your sense of entitlement knows no limits. We are not here to “prove a point” or to “attack someone out of a sense of fun or boredom” because we simply have “nothing better to do with our lives”.

You speak of justice and liberties and rights; promoting freedom from inequalities and immoral behaviour as the most significant tool to overcome injustice.

Freedom is *our* politics too, and we fight for it every day. We are fighting against men like you, and everything you represent. We fight for the women you have manipulated and frightened into submission — terrified that speaking out against you and your actions will result in your written defamation of *her* character to her own family, simply because she threatened to speak out against you.

Do you truly believe women are that inconsequential? That our freedoms are not to be respected? Do you honestly believe that we cannot see the reality that exists beyond your reputation? How you repeatedly treat women in this way and continue to get away with it, is shocking and difficult to process. As women with our own truths, we stand against your promoted principles of “equality” and “freedoms”, for we know what those meanings truly mean to us. One’s true character cannot hide behind these concepts forever — however beneficial this may be to your current academic and professional ambitions.

This letter, however, not only highlights your indecent and immoral behaviour, but the flawed system of the SOAS institution that continues to defend and protect individuals such as yourself from just punishment. Their flawed policies, which deny your victim’s right to thorough support, and anonymity against your predicted retaliations, has so far protected you.

One thing is for certain: you must accept responsibility for your actions. The harassment, and intimidation you endeavour to perpetuate onto women must end. We do not know how long you have persisted in these behaviours and we can only imagine and feel saddened at the number of women who have suffered from your persistence, and much worse.

I truly hope that your behaviour and actions have finally caught up with you; that you can no longer hide behind your veil of human decency. You can no longer hide from those you have tried to silence. So far, you have evaded the British legal system and perhaps others, but how many more women must you harass, (assault), stalk, intimidate and manipulate into submission, until the law that you so confidently tout, comes for you, and finally turns you from the “victim” of society you claim to be, into a more accurate reflection: a perpetuator of sexism, entitlement, and misogyny.

Justice clearly has a long way to go.

Testimony 2

Asang Wankhede,

This letter is directed at you to bring to your notice the mental and the sexual harassment you have caused one of your peers during a tumultuous period of exams. Having shunned your advances several times and making clear that I was not interested in having a physical relationship with you on many occasions, you did not stop. I have recorded verbal and written conversations with you where you constantly degrade me, threw sexual jibes and accused ‘me’ of causing you mental harassment — all because I politely told you that I did not want to sleep with you. When I offered you a hand of help, for you confided about your personal dilemmas to me, you turned it against me and declared that I was being disrespectful towards you. You kept on quasi-apologising-quasi-blaming me in your patronising behaviour until I told you to stop speaking to me completely. Even that didn’t dissuade you, for soon you threw lewd comments about my character and how you “had plenty of action anyway”.

I would not be writing this if I hadn’t known that you were audacious enough to do the same and more to other women in my vicinity. Did you think women don’t speak to each other about harassers like you? It’s funny because at some level I feel that you do not even recognize what you did to me as harassment. One would think that a person of your stature, politics and above all education would behave in a manner that was more conducive to his projected reputation. I address this letter not just to you, but also to women you have harassed, urging them to come forward even if it is anonymously. I also address this letter to my own conscience and of those you have harassed for it would be the gravest mistake of my life if one day you became a human rights lawyer and were made to sit on a case of sexual offences.

Testimony 3

Asang Wankhede,

I write today to address the reality and truth of the harassment that defines you. It is appalling for any human being to be treated the way you treat people in general and me personally.

In spite of being absolutely open and forthright in my dealings with you, you have undertaken the efforts of defaming and character assassinating me only and only to satisfy your personal egos. You have gone to the extent of lying to people about me and creating a wave of pressure for me to reel under while I strive to perform academically.

A weak and sly character that you have, never permitted you to walk up to me and have a talk but definitely conspired to go to the extent of verbally abusing me in isolation and thus mentally harassing me to an unimaginable extent. You even had the audacity to physically stalk, follow and intimidate me with your like-minded friends, just because you had the opportunity to. You otherwise don’t even have the courage to look me in the eye and utter a word.

I want you to know that, I am aware of the fact that there are others who you have harassed in similar ways and much more! An absolute shame that a person like you is even associated with a department like Law and even worse that you study and probably hope to pursue Human Rights, something that you definitely don’t respect or understand. You are a sad little person, tiringly towing an academic line of a stature that you are so far from being and in the spree manipulating, harassing, deceiving and disrespecting women. Shame on you!