Stop the Sexual Harassment and Intimidation of Rupashree Dasgupta ,an Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), Patna.
Rupashree Dasgupta was appointed Associate Professor, Nursing, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), Patna, in October 2011. Her appointment was a logical next step in an academic and professional life in which she has been an outstanding achiever with many merits and gold medals to her credit. These qualifications along with the requisite experience earned her a spot as Associate Professor in Bihar’s premier medical institute. Excited and determined, Rupashree got ready to enter a new phase of life teaching nursing. However, nothing prepared her for what was to follow on the IGIMS campus.
In the first few weeks itself, Rupashree started to realise that the Institute was not being run in a professional manner, but rather like the fiefdom of the then Director, Arun Kumar, who is the brother-in-law of the then DGP Bihar, Mr. Abhayanand. From our experience in women’s movement we know that such situations with powerful men in positions of authority do not bode well for women in terms of ensuring a safe and a professional workspace. In Rupashree’s case, this manifested itself as unrelenting and unwelcome sexual advances and sexual harassment.
Soon after she joined the IGIMS, Arun Kumar demanded sexual favours in return for ‘letting’ her continue staying in the staff quarters (a request that she had placed as a prerequisite for taking up this job and one that was accepted by the interview panel). When Rupashree refused to comply, the Director created, directly and via other staff members and people known to him, a hostile and a dangerous workplace. Outlined below is a very brief summary of the myriad ways in which she was harassed.
She was frequently shunted from one staff quarter to the other without any explanation; refused leave or marked absent when she was on duty; her office sealed without any prior information; her movements restricted and important documents stolen from her room. She was threatened and stalked and there were also incidents of people banging at her door at all odd hours of the night. She was also apprehended by unknown visitors who came to her staff quarter threatening her to withdraw cases and to leave Bihar.
IGIMS also refused to give her any administrative responsibilities, while at the same time, offering these to her juniors. She was served a slew of notices over issues ranging from leave to ‘misbehaviour’; she was also served a show cause notice stating that her appointment was faulty, and hence she will be demoted.
Some of her colleagues too, emboldened by Dr Arun Kumar’s behaviour, started passing disparaging and sexually-coloured remarks. At his behest, a signature drive was carried out against her under the banner of a non-existent Faculty Association. In fact, some time later, many signatories withdrew their names from the said letter.
As we have seen in countless other cases, when all else fails then the next strategy is to declare the woman ‘mentally unstable’ so as to discredit her and her compliant of sexual harassment. Predictably enough, this is exactly what IGIMS did in the most shocking manner by circulating a written statement, declaring Rupashree to be mentally unstable, to the local police station and other government offices. It is not a coincidence that this was done right after she had filed a case of physical assault against Sushma Charley, a faculty member, who had brutally assaulted her at the behest of Dr Arun Kumar.
When Rupashree moved the gender harassment committee at IGIMS, she was turned down without as much as a preliminary hearing. The committee merely asked her to submit an application to the administration. This is a shocking lapse on the part of the said Committee and would have been a clear violation of the Vishakha Guidelines of the Supreme Court (that were then being followed, in absence of a law) and the current Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act 2013 and the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013. The points below illustrate how the formation of the Committee itself was manipulated to ensure that Rupashree did not stand a chance of a fair hearing:
The Committee, constituted on 25th May 2012 by Dr Arun Kumar, was headed by Sudha Thakur, Chairperson, and Ms. Lucy Benedict, Nursing Tutor of School of Nursing, IGIMS Member Secretary.This Committee was dissolved after the above mentioned (ref to point 3) signature drive took place. The Committee did not even complete its schedule tenure of 3 years.Soon after a new Committee was formed by the Dr Arun Kumar and predictably included ‘his’ people from the signature drive against Rupashree.
Rupashree’s situation took a turn for the worse on 15th July 2013. That very morning she had been operated upon after an accidental wrist injury and had barely managed to recover from the surgery when she was summarily discharged.
That same night at 11.30 pm, police from Gandhi Maidan mahila police station visited Rupashree and informed her that then Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, has taken interest in her case and has summoned her to know details. Rupashree went along with the police who forcibly took her to the police station, and illegally and wrongfully confined her for 17 hours. During this time, she was denied medicines, food and water. This further deteriorated her condition and added to the aggravation of her post-op health condition. . This abuse of State machinery by the ex-Director Arun Kumar who is credited with saying “ye larki aise nahi manegi, ise toh ek aadh gaddha khod kar gagdh do” about Rupashree , is very alarming.
Immediate action must be taken against him as well as the then DGP Bihar Mr. Abhayanand who he is related to and without whose complicity this illegal and wrongful confinement would not have been possible with such ease.
About Dr Arun Kumar and current situation: He had voluntarily retired from Nalanda Medical College and Hospital to join IGIMS on January 2004 as professor and Head of Department, Anaesthesia, moving upwards to become the Acting Director in June 2008, followed later in the year in December 2008 to become a full-fledged regular Director of the Institute, a position that he occupied for 5 years till December 2013. Currently he is Head of Department and Professor, Anaesthesia, at IGIMS and will be completing his service in September 2015.
While Dr Arun Kumar comfortably continues with his service and enjoys all related benefits, Rupashree continues to run from pillar to post seeking justice. She cannot work anywhere as her services were not dispensed with by the authorising body of IGIMS, the Board of Governors, as it is still pending for confirmation. So she is in a peculiar situation where is she not being ‘allowed’ to work, has not been paid her salary and there is no communication from the IGIMS about what it plans to do next. Rupashree is currently fighting eleven cases in all, of which seven cases are in lower court and four cases in the Patna High Court. She has also filed a complaint with the Bihar State Human Rights Commission.
She is without a job that is rightfully hers, without any financial support and is holding on to her on-campus accommodation at great jeopardy to her own life and most significantly, because she had managed to get a stay on her eviction from the Patna High Court.
All this violence, suffering, harassment because she said NO to the sexual advances made by ex-Director Dr Arun Kumar?
Rupashree must get justice!
We demand the follow to be done with immediate effect:
Rupashree be immediately reinstated in her job and paid back her salary dues retrospectively with interest as well as with other consequential benefits. IGIMS must ensure that she is able to join back without fear, insecurity or threats. She should be compensated by the IGIMS in retrospect, for years of mental torture, as well as financial hardship.That her service record be expunged of this suspension and other negative notations that may have been made during her tenure at IGIMS, in order to protect her future professional prospects.Dr Arun Kumar should be suspended from service, an enquiry against him be initiated and till its completion, his pension and other benefits should be withheld.There should be an independent CBI inquiry into Rupashree’s case because in addition to investigating the role of the ex-Director, there also needs be an investigation into the functioning of this institute.A sexual harassment committee should be set up at IGIMS as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prohibition) Act 2013.issues by-Deepti Sharma, Saheli, New Delhi
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist Mumbai,
Kiran Shaheen Memoirist and Anti Poverty Activist, New Delhi
Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA, New Delhi
Anagha Sarpotdar, researcher and practitioner (violence against women), Mumbai
Uma Chakravarti, retired Delhi University