Raya Sarkar and All The List’s Men
On 24th October 2017, Raya Sarkar, an advocate and vocal anti-caste feminist published a crowd sourced list of professors in Indian academia who have been involved in sexual harassment or have been sexual predators at some point in their lives.
And the tremors are still being felt.
It started with Raya listing two names and an appeal for people to personal message them other similar first hand accounts, after which they started adding names to the main list. At this point, the list contains 69 names and is still growing as more and more people are coming forward to add to it.
This list gathered attention as soon as it was published with people getting onto opposing poles; one supporting the list and other condemning it as baseless without any proof of the survivor’s account.
People are worried about the veracity of such lists; listing names without any validation. But one twitter user put it perfectly.
Whisper networks between women and minorities already exist; in your educational institutions, offices, public spaces and heck even in families. The thick, bile like concoction women and minorities are forced to swallow by an obtuse societal structure and snail paced law make sure that their silence protects the men who perpetrate.
Sarkar describes the list as a warning system for those in the universities and those planning to join; a more concrete whisper network of sorts.
It is important to introspect why the onus is always on women to prove themselves as not guilty and over justify their allegations. The men mentioned in the list very well have the mechanism to defend themselves and come forward in case they are not guilty. It’s odd to note how ok we when our protest is armchair, how vocal we get when it’s to support a cause like #MeToo but don’t want to come forward when perpetrators are being held accountable for their actions. Instead of listening to the survivors we are quick to jump in telling them to do it the “right way”.
The other argument that came up was why the young women never filed a complaint against the harassers.One can’t be living in India and not have an answer to this.
We all know the disbelief and the name calling that follows a woman who comes forward with her story; the litmus test she must go through is harsh and insensitive, and leaves her maligned in most cases, than her oppressor. The professional, societal retaliation is what scares women and forces them to remain silent. The same stands true for minorities and other marginalised folk on the gender+sexuality spectrum who cannot enjoy the unspoken privilege that men in power can.
Most people who came forth with names and instances on Sarkar’s list are students. Students, who do not enjoy a certain level of indemnity that they may start a full scale out and out war with the system that oppresses them. Many understand that filing a case against such powerful, influential men could jeopardize their careers and lives as well and hence, are using their platform as proxy to give voice to what they have suffered.
Another interesting take came forth from this list via a public post named, “Statement By feminists on facebook campaign to name and shame”, published on kafila.online. (https://kafila.online/2017/10/24/statement-by-feminists-on-facebook-campaign-to-name-and-shame/) penned by Dr. Nivedita Menon in strong words and signed by the likes of her. This letter has 11 signatures, all women.
The context with which the post is written in and the timeliness of it seemed almost like a knee jerk reaction by the Kafila team to the post. The letter reads like a savarna feminist 101 lesson to all “other” feminists; an exercise that comes off divisive and supremast; discrediting the campaign and dismissing it in a rather intimidating tone. This sends a strong message and sets a problematic precedent between what is correct feminist protocol and what isn’t.
Sarkar is a part of our own ilk, they is themself a very vocal feminist and anti-caste activist and has used their platform for voicing strong solidarity to the feminist cause. One way of dealing with disagreement on part of a reputed and established feminist organisation could be investigating claims and accusations that their post put forward, or even getting in touch with them and establishing communication.
The letter resembles the cushion already provided to these powerful, influential and mostly upper caste men in education; giving a clear indication that we stand with you only till you don’t involve our friends. Stand with you only till you create monstrous caricatures about lower castes men and not come up to savarna men.
Other concern which arises from this letter is the question of representation; can 12 upper caste women be enough to treat this statement by feminists? Haven’t we overlooked the caste-class consciousness in universalizing it?
The negative hype created by this campaign is self explanatory of why women choose to keep silent rather than reporting sexual harassment. This then becomes more difficult for DBA women as they are doubly marginalized. The “due process” which has been mentioned several times in the letter is thus not available readily nor fair to these women. The dynamics of “due process” are really skewed in India and we all are aware of this fact.
The motive of this list as explained by Raya in their facebook post is to create
‘ A list for students to be wary of professors, through first hand accounts of victims. No hearsay. It’s to prevent further harassment’. This list is a brilliant initiative to call out powerful men in the Indian academia without fearing dire consequences at a professional level. If nothing else it serves the purpose of generating a discourse against the hypocrisy in the left-liberal-academic circles. It also gives enough strength to survivors to actually file the complaints now that the names are openly available in public domain, which is why a student of AUD has filed a complaint against two of her professors at the level of the university.’
The letter then appears preachy without need for engaging with the idea of creating a list and can’t be viewed without the eagerness to save the professors.
We shall be updating this space as the matter unfolds further and more narratives come forth. Stay tuned to this space.
By KrantiKalis Namrata Gupta and Rhea Dangwal.