Fairoz Khan, the national president of the student wing of the Congress party—National Students’ Union of India (NSUI)—has been named in a sexual harassment row. A former member of the organisation has accused Khan of sexually harassing female members of the organisation in lieu of political positions.
This was brought to light in Chhattisgarh on Sunday, after an email containing WhatsApp chats of Khan with two others was leaked to the media by the complainant.
Describing her ordeal, the complainant also detailed an instance where her sister was called by Khan to a Bengaluru hotel room. She wrote, “The national president has not only mentally tortured me to compromise but he has also mentally tortured my younger sister to come to his room. There are many other young female activists who also faced the same but they have refrained from coming out publicly so that no other girl is molested or mentally tortured.”
Ruchi Gupta, the national incharge of NSUI, took to Twitter and denied receiving any official complaint from the victim. Due to the seriousness of the charges, the Congress party took suo motu cognisance of the matter and set-up a committee to investigate the matter.
Fairoz Khan, who has been the president of the NSUI national unit for over a year, has not been suspended yet. Speaking to The Indian Express, he vehemently denied all charges against him, and said they were “absolutely baseless and politically motivated”. He also added that his communication with the complainant was done only through official emails.
Ironically, Khan was at the forefront of a delegation in Delhi University in May this year, urging proctor Neeta Sehgal to implement the UGC guidelines for the constitution of Internal Complaints Committees across colleges.
Not only are the allegations levelled serious in nature, the complaint also highlights the inadequacy of student political organisations to safeguard its members. The complaint explicitly states that the lack of a redressal mechanism in the organisation led the complainant to leak the complaint to the media.
To seek a response to the allegations levelled, members of NSUI were repeatedly contacted by Newslaundry. On hearing questions about the case, its Delhi University member Shorya Veer hurriedly cut the call. The phones of multiple members were not reachable or switched off.
In 2016, a complaint of rape was levelled against Anmol Ratan of All India Students Association (AISA). These cases highlight the pressing need for complaint committees within student units, where an atmosphere of trust and support must also be inculcated. Knee-jerk reactions by parties fail to address this gaping vacuum in students politics.
Note: An earlier version of the piece incorrectly stated the name of the NSUI national president as Feroz Khan. It has been updated and we regret the error.