In a fast changing narrative, what was first a complaint of inappropriate classroom behaviour by a Patna Women’s College teacher, has now been changed to ‘sexual assault’. But why is it that political fish seem to be swimming around in troubled waters?
On Friday, even after the accused resigned, and the police and college authorities promised action against the man if the charges were proved), one was dismayed to witness a day-long vocal protest outside the gates. The most visible were males claiming to be with two politically affiliated student unions trying to storm the college gates and obviously trying to create a ruckus and instigate the police to use their batons . Witnessing events on Friday from within Patna Women’s College walls, it was obvious that the Mass Communication students, (the department from where the complaint against the teacher came) were no longer part of the agitation. Why this over-interest of outside forces in what is obviously a cut-and -dry case?
On Friday, the narrative outside the walls suddenly changed. The alleged ‘molestation’ no longer seemed important: the chant outside the gates was for students to be allowed cell phones, to scrap the dress code of the college, and for the principal to resign!
Certain local cable channels had a field day running down the college and its current Principal. Guests on some of these channels made wild and unsubstantiated statements, going to the extent of accusing a highly respected nun of ‘supplying girls to politicians’.
The narrative that is emerging is this: the vice-chancellor should grab hold of the college administration, and by extension take away the rights of the minority college. In this election time, what better way to polarize Patna than to demonize one of the highly regarded missionary colleges, and politicize the matter? The PWC administration has stood up to many attempts to interfere with its internal matters in the past. When other colleges of the university are disrupted for the greater part of the academic year, PWC functions, while strikes by non-teaching staff, teachers, and what- have- you come and go. PWC peons cannot be bribed to alter students’ attendance records.
The events are distressing for the ‘veteran’ professors of Patna Women’s College. Why? Because there is this overpowering sense of a loss of innocence. The students, with some tacit support from vested interests, have used social media to drag the fair name of the College and the principal through the mud.
It is possible that after a long period of six years of students being subjected to ‘double entrendes’ during lectures , finally decide they have had enough and report the matter to the HoD. Minati Chaklanovis, the HoD approaches the Principal with five students and narrates the matter to her. The Principal, Sister Marie Jessie , says, okay, give me the complaint in writing.
Logically, the written complaint should have been filed that very day. Who knows what was the reason for the delay? Then suddenly, much later, there’s unrest. Students walk out of classes. The Principal insists on a written complaint. As soon as the complaint is received, the college starts the probe procedures, isolating the accused teacher from the department.(Note, there is no mention of ‘sexual harassment’ in the complaint.) Then everything escalates into cyber warfare and mud-slinging and vilification on the social media. The price of procrastination!
While Ms. Chaklanovis promptly brought the matter to the notice of the Principal, obviously the question remains as to why she did not push the issue while the iron was hot? This delay has left herself as well as the college administration vulnerable. Did some external force, smelling an opportunity, wilfully instigate a group of students to start a campaign to malign the integrity of the college administration) even while the internal probe were on? Time will tell.
But does PWC have that much time to salvage its once pristine reputation from the virulent onslaught of some mud-slinging local media people? The silver jubilee closing celebrations are slated for a fortnight from now. A National accreditation team from the UGC will visit the college, which was seeking to achieve an even higher grade of excellence. This is an unfortunate and unhappy turn of events for staff, students, and the college administration alike.
The narrative is fast changing. Police say that now students have made even more serious charges. Instead of staying put and defending his reputation, Sanjay Dutta has disappeared.. The police are investigating. The local TV channels have a ‘hot’ issue. In the meanwhile, PWC is under siege by hordes of people fishing in troubled waters.