Banaras Hindu University (BHU) finds itself in the news for sexual impropriety once more. 11 students of Mahila Maha Vidyalaya (MMV), the women’s college have reportedly written a letter to the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports alleging sexual harassment by the National Service Scheme (NSS) program officer Rajeev Mishra. According to the inquiry officer PK Sharma, the students allege that Mishra, who is also an assistant professor in Bioinformatics, promised them rewards and opportunities to be sent as foreign delegates in return for “submitting [themselves] to him.”
On receiving the letter, the ministry sent out a directive to the university to look into the matter on June 13. The directive also suspended the accused’s one-year service extension as NSS program officer. The NSS Regional Director Ashok Shroti has set up an internal committee to probe into the matter and Sharma has been appointed as the inquiry officer.
Sharma told Newslaundry; “I am probing an extremely serious allegation against Rajeev Mishra. Besides, I have sent a letter to the Principal of MMV so that the statement of complainants could be recorded. If you need to know further information please talk to university PRO (Public Relations Officer)”. However, the PRO’s response was less than reassuring. “I am not aware about any such letter. I don’t know whether the university has received any complaint either,” Rajesh Singh said. This is especially alarming given the severity of the complaint.
Meanwhile, the women have also written a letter to the Vice Chancellor GC Tripathi and University Registrar claiming that they feel uncomfortable and intimidated by the program officer. “We always feel uncomfortable before the officer and approached the administration several times demanding the replacement of the program officer. Many of my friends quit NSS due to his sexist behavior,” one of the women told us.
However, Mishra denied all the allegations and said that he is yet to receive any letter or notice. “I got to know about it through media and relatives. I have worked sincerely and I don’t have words to express my current state of mind. I am waiting for the investigation to start”, said Mishra.
While one can understand the university’s reluctance to make details regarding the case public, the lack of transparency regarding the complaint, and the process in which it, and possibly others, is dealt with is cause enough for concern.