Over the past two months, the IIT-Guwahati rape case has received national and local media attention, and the main accused is under arrest. However, the latest report from the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of the institute shows that the nature of the case is far more severe, and points fingers at the questionable role of other students who were considered only witnesses, not accomplices.
On March 28, an undergraduate student at the IIT-Guwahati alleged sexual assault by unknown seniors of the institute after she was found unconscious outside her hostel late on a Sunday evening.
A day after EastMojo reported IIT-Guwahati student alleges sexual assault on campus by seniors, prime accused Utsav Kadam was arrested by Assam Police and the institute constituted an internal ‘fact-finding’ committee to probe the incident on April 3.
The fact-finding report, a copy of which is with EastMojo, had pointed out ragging as precursor to a meeting of one of the students’ clubs on campus. The report noted how the seniors, including the accused student, were not happy with the working of the club.
“They also told some of the students that their Personality Development Programme —a form of ragging — has not happened so far so they should go through PDP,” the fact-finding report had noted.
“Given the fact that the girl was unconscious for more than 2 hours, and as per the GMCH discharge report as well as depositions made by the students, the committee believes that this could be a possible case of sexual assault,” the fact-finding report had noted even as it recommended that the case be forwarded to the ICC.
Now, the ICC report has revealed disturbing details.
The ICC report, which was also submitted before the Gauhati High Court in May, has noted that for two hours on the night of the incident, March 28, the victim was in an unconscious state for two hours and deliberately left to die by the main accused Utsav Kadam and four other students.
These students, instead of informing the concerned authorities, tried questionable means to revive the victim in an attempt to cover up the crime. This appears in the FIR filed by the victim which was registered at North Guwahati P.S. Case No.56/2021 U/S 376/328/307/120B/34 of the Indian Penal Code.
“Not all details were made crystal clear and there were many loose ends in the statements submitted to the ICC, Chairperson. However, circumstantial evidence points to the fact that all the students mentioned above were involved in this case. The fact that they (names withheld) did not make attempts to provide actual call records retrieved from reliable sources (screenshots do not count as evidence) also shows that they have not made enough efforts to defend themselves in a serious criminal activity which happened in IIT-Guwahati campus,” the ICC report has noted.
“It was not made clear why (names withheld), who are otherwise not very close friends with Utsav Kadam decided to go to help Utsav Kadam and extricate him out of an incredibly difficult situation. According to (name withheld), he had differences with him and hence avoided his company. According to (name withheld), he only knew him casually. But the circumstantial evidence points towards a close relationship, where they were willing to keep secrets for each other, and protect each other from the authorities (by their own admission).
Despite seeing a fellow student lying unconscious for more than an hour, all three of them tried their rather questionable means of reviving and resuscitating her. This act deserves to be vehemently reprimanded and condemned in the strictest possible manner. (Names withheld) stated that Utsav Kadam didn’t want (the victim) to be provided with proper and immediate medical help, lest the incident should come to light and bring him within the purview of disciplinary action,” the report has added.
The ICC report notes that there was violence too. “(Name withheld) noted some violent activities which happened that evening – for instance, Utsav Kadam dragged the victim by her hair and pushed her against the wall. The other two witnesses (names withheld) denied having seen anything like that. Not only that, what they did for a long time from 10.51 – 12.08 (according to WhatsApp chats) was not established with any clarity, and the details have been clearly avoided in the statement from (name withheld) (surely they couldn’t have made an unconscious person walk for more than an hour). (name withheld) admitted to smoking while waiting there. This points to enough circumstantial evidence of willful negligence of violent activities,” the report has noted.
“The fact that all the accused have vehemently berated the victim for not stating the facts correctly points to their insensitivity to her even after knowing the facts. Being unconscious all the while she cannot be expected to know the minute details of what happened except from hearsay or what her friends have told her after they arrived at the scene,” the report has added.
The report also confirms sexual activity, although this had already been confirmed by the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, where the victim was treated after the assault. Importantly, the ICC report shows that the three other students (names withheld) were aware of the same.
“All three of them admitted that they understood some sexual activity was going on, and they decided, based on their high opinion of Utsav Kadam that it must have been consensual. (Name withheld) even admitted to confronting Utsav Kadam about it, and he alleges that Utsav Kadam denied any such activity.
This again points to willful negligence and turning a blind eye to a criminal activity, instead of reporting such an activity to the authorities or a responsible senior person, health worker, or anyone of any capacity who could have helped the victim in that vulnerable situation.”
It is important to note that after the fact-finding committee submitted its report, the IIT-Guwahati administration took no action against the three students. However, the ICC recommendations make it clear that they see the three students as clear accomplices. The ICC committee has accused the three of putting the victim’s life in grave danger and not informing anyone about sexual assault, battery and substance and narcotics abuse.
The committee also accused the three of “causing mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress to the victim,” the loss in career opportunity and the medical expenses incurred by the victim for physical treatment. The ICC recommended that the three face expulsion of one academic semester with immediate effect, expulsion from the hostel for a year and payment of a sum of ₹ 50,000 each to the victim. The ICC also favoured “suspended rustication if sexual abuse is proven by a court of law.”
The committee also recommended taking action against two other students (names withheld) for “being aware of a premeditated event criminal activity against a woman and not reporting it,” and for discussing the victim “unfavourably so as to severely affect her physical and mental health, causing her emotional distress.”
The two must also face expulsion from hostel for a year and payment of a sum of ₹ 40,000 each to the victim. In the case of these two also, the ICC favoured “suspended rustication of if sexual abuse is proven by a court of law.”
How/why are the three students not under the scanner?
The ICC report was signed by two members of the ICC on May 18 and 19, which indicates that the report was submitted nearly two weeks ago. While the degree of their involvement is unclear, there are a lot of loose ends in their narratives and the ICC report has made it clear that each of them was involved in one way or the other. However, even at the time of filing this report and two weeks after the ICC report, the administration is yet to take any action against the other students.
Despite repeated attempts, EastMojo was unable to get a response from the IIT-Guwahati administration on the same.
We spoke to a lawyer as to under what provisions of the law were the others released the next day itself. “Why the others have been let loose in the light of the findings in the FFC report (which is part of the IIT-Guwahati FIR) that they were present at the crime scene is a pointer towards inaction of the police for reasons best known to them. The police must also answer why they let off the others when the FFC report was with the IIT-G FIR,” the lawyer said.
On May 28, the Gauhati HC issued an order to constitute a new investigating team consisting of three experienced officers, including a woman police officer, to investigate the case. This followed a writ petition filed by the victim on May 18, which sought the investigation to be taken up by a special investigative team, consisting of women police personnel. The petition also called for North Guwahati police officials, especially Mukut Baishya, the former investigating officer, from investigating the case any further. The petition also mentioned that another female student present at the scene wasn’t questioned by the police.
It remains to be seen whether the IIT administration considers, and implements, the ICC recommendations. But so far, the signs do not look promising, even as a young woman, who was violated inside the prestigious campus by her fellow students, awaits justice.