Patna Women’s College: Speak out against sexual harassment, pay the price

Here’s the inside story of what happened after protests broke out on campus against a faculty member.

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In September 2015, people of Bihar were surprised when a sexual harassment case at one of its reputed colleges, Patna Women’s College (PWC), made the national headlines. For them, more surprising than the case was the long-suppressed outrage of women students who had finally gathered the courage to speak out. What was never made public though, after national dailies covered the case adding much flavour to it, was what happened to the students who had disclosed the matter.


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The case was this. A third-year student had accused department of mass communications’ faculty member Sanjay Datta of harassment, after which students of PWC had come out in droves to protest. The agitation escalated after other students also revealed instances when they had been invited to an empty classroom by the same professor. 

Ironically, PWC, a college which secured an ‘A’ grade from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, has no anti-sexual harassment complaints’ committee. Hence, students are forced to go to their respective department heads or the principal to file complaints.

In order to make the administration aware of the gravity of the issue, each girl submitted a detailed complaint to the principal. Soon, a few girls who had been leading the protests, were called to principal Marie Jessie’s office. The principal claimed the case was fake and the complaints manipulated. She also allegedly made statements such as “he just touched you, he didn’t do anything else”, “a single girl who claims to be a rotten apple, who is spoiling other girls”, etc.

Outraged by the principal’s response, two girls took to social media. “How can someone holding such a prominent position talk like this? You will give lectures on women rights and issues, but when it comes to action, you blame the woman” – they wrote on their Facebook page. The very next day, the students were threatened with expulsion from the college and asked to write an apology on the same Facebook page. 

After this incident, the entire batch boycotted Datta’s classes. The administration then ordered the suspension of 54 students. They were asked to bring their parents if they wanted to resume classes. The principal’s words were: “I have the power to make you sit next year in college again” – clear proof of her vengeance towards the students who had dared to complain about sexual harassment.

Bringing parents to the college to meet the principal, however, had the contrary effect. The principal had to agree to suspend the faculty member after the parents insisted on the safety of their daughters. But though the faculty member refrained from taking classes, he was still present on campus.

A post of a girl from another department, claiming a video of harassment, went viral on Facebook. Though it intensified the protests on campus, not a single girl from the accused’s department endorsed the video because they wanted a peaceful solution to the issue. For them, it was also not the right time to bring to the fore other pressing issues such as dress code, prohibition of mobile phones, etc. on campus.

While many students gave bytes to the media claiming they were victims of sexual harassment, students from the mass communications department were called by the principal and asked to give statements in favour of the institution. Following the instruction, the students told the media that their complaint had been properly addressed and the accused professor had resigned from the college. That was the end of the media frenzy around the issue. 

For the students, it was just the start of the administration’s hounding of them.

According to the university’s rule “each student should have minimum 75 per cent attendance to appear for examination”. Every year, the students were warned about low attendance before the end of the session and were supposed to attend extra classes and pay fine during form submission. After the protests broke out, to everyone’s surprise, classes were infinitely suspended without letters being sent to the students regarding their attendance. Around 213 girls who didn’t meet the criteria of 75 per cent attendance were barred from writing their semester-end examination held in April 2016.  

The affected students moved the Patna High Court and wrote letters to the education minister and chief minister. The court verdict came after a month, ordering the college to conduct examinations again for students with 60 per cent attendance. The examination was held, but the results were never declared. 

The students again filed a complaint, this time with the Supreme Court. After two years, in November 2017, the court ordered declaration of results with immediate effect. The principal’s revenge, however, was complete as she had already wasted two years of the students’ academic life.

We live in a society where victims are accused of being criminals if they raise their voice against sexual harassment. This is just one case from a women’s college where students’ character and behaviour were questioned when they spoke out against harassment and demanded freedom and action. Are we really independent? This makes me doubt the freedom we admire.

Newslaundry reached out to the head of the mass communications department, Minnati Chaklanovis. When asked about the anti-sexual harassment complaints’ committee, she said: “Yes, there is a committee which was constituted after the aforementioned incident, but I don’t remember what it is called.” When asked about the committee’s members and their contact numbers, Chaklanovis said: “It’s vacation time and you can reach out for more details after January 2.”

Although Newslaundry called up the administration office at the college, they refused to give the principal’s number. An email was also sent to the administration in this regard but didn’t yield any response.

Disclaimer: Fearing retaliation, the author has requested anonymity.

If you’re a student, professor or an alumnus and want to write/share how your college deals with sexual harassment, the systems to check it or the lack thereof, email us at


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