NEW DELHI: On March 15, a group of female students from the School of Life Sciences (SLS), Jawaharlal Nehru University levied charges of sexual harassment against professor Atul Johri. An FIR had been lodged with the Vasant Kunj Police Station, under Section 354 and 509, on Thursday late night, based on which, Johri has been booked.

On March 14, a 26 year old female student was reported missing from the University by her parents, traced later to her relatives house. She had sent a resignation letter to the professor, that was later circulated on social media. The letter said, “I am leaving your so-called prestigious lab, just because you are a characterless person and have no manners when it comes to talking to girls. And you have a particular pattern by which you make every girl feel that she is worthless..”

Following this incident, in a press meet on campus, several girl students of SLS spoke about their harrowing experiences with the professor. A joint statement made by the students alleged that the professor made “sexually colored remarks, open demand for sex, and comments on figure of almost every girl. If the girl objects, he takes all the grudges possible and threaten the girls of ruining their research career.”

(The students now are protesting in front of the SLS Dean's office regarding the immediate suspension of the professor)

The statement further reads, “He pressurizes the students of his laboratory to attend all the ABVP/RSS talks, even if they are working in the laboratory.” The professor has been a vocal supporter of of the administration's decision of implementing compulsory attendance in the varsity from the monsoon semester. The students’ statement levies charges of corruption stating, “there is a financial nexus between Prof. Johri and administration people..”

A student of the school who had worked under the professor shared her own experience. She said that the professor “forced her to join his lab saying he was doing a favour to her. She was a project assistant in his lab, for a year before that.”

“He would force us to attend all the ABVP programs held on campus, though we would repeatedly refuse’, said a student. Further, charges of visiting the girls at ‘odd timing and sometime even in drunken state,” she stated.

A PhD student of School of Life Sciences added, ‘'he would comment on our appearance all the time and snatch away our phones to check whom we were talking to. He would ask who our boyfriends are and what we do with them.”Another student said, ‘He would mistreat all the girl students in the department and make us feel incompetent of ourselves, all the time…”

The professor has brushed aside all the charges against him, saying that “some girls, who have levelled the allegations against me, had received an mail from me, on February 27 regarding their irregular attendance in the lab. So they are targeting me.”

A statement issued by the JNUSU reads as the following:

“The JNUSU is deeply concerned at reports emerging in the Media that a student of the School of Life Sciences who had been missing for some time has raised serious allegations against one of the professors of the same school. The professor in question, Atul Kumar Johri is not someone without controversy. We demand that the suo moto Cognizance be taken of the matter and an enquiry held. The JNU administration should ensure that there is no hindrance in the enquiry and the truth of the matter come out urgently.”

(Cover Photo credit: Samim Asgor Ali)

(The names of the complainants have been withheld from being published, following the policies of The Citizen)