SRINAGAR — A Ph.D scholar has accused the University of Kashmir of shielding a senior faculty member, Professor Tareek Rather, who allegedly sexually harassed her. The victim has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the University for obstructing action against Rather, who is the head of Institute of Kashmir Studies.
The victim has alleged that Rather subjected her to mental torture and sexual advances by talking salaciously, passing obscene comments, and narrating obscene dreams. She further stated that in 2018, she requested the Director Central for Centre Asian Studies to change Rather as her supervisor, but the university refused to do so. Instead, a co-supervisor was assigned in the year 2020 after a prolonged struggle to monitor her research work.
Feeling dejected, the victim approached the National Women’s Commission (NWC) New Delhi in the same year, but the accused allegedly tried to sabotage her research work. The university constituted two committees, Women Empowerment Grievance Committee and Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), but the victim claims that the members of these committees were friendly to the accused.
She said that authorities kept on discouraging her with various threats including putting her PhD degree on hold. “The authorities used different tactics like delaying the PhD thesis submission and sitting on the notices from the NWC notice and LG’s office regarding the sexual harassment case. They even tried to coerce me to compromise and withdraw the complaint, which I refused,” the victim said.
According to ICC guidelines, a professor should be relieved of all assignments when facing an inquiry in a sexual harassment case. In February 2021, the case was referred to the prevention of sexual harassment committee, which submitted its report in May. However, the university has not shared the report with the victim, citing “institutional interests and respect.”
The victim says the university is denying her access to the report in violation of ICC rules. She alleges that the university has been protecting the accused professor from day one, and that the members of the committees appointed to investigate her complaints were manipulated by the accused.
The victim has accused the University of prioritizing its institutional interests and respect over justice and accountability. The case highlights the need for universities to establish a safe and supportive environment for their students and staff, free from sexual harassment and discrimination.
Prof Aneesa Shafi, the head of the ICC, told Srinagar based news agency Kashmir Dot Com that “We have conducted the investigation objectively and submitted the report to the office of the Vice Chancellor. “The complainant should approach the VC office to get the report,” Shafi said without divulging the details of the recommendations of the report.
The accused professor has refuted the charges leveled against him. “These are all made up charges to defame me,” Rather said, adding that her PhD thesis was not worth submitting for final publication, so I raised objections. “Instead of improving the quality of the thesis, she started running a character assignation campaign against me,” Rather added. — (KDC)