Aftafizur Rahman, a teacher at the Chandranath Bezbaruah College in the Bokakhat sub-division of Golaghat district of Assam, was suspended by college authorities for ten days for the alleged sexual harassment of a female student of the institute.
Rahman allegedly asked her extremely uncomfortable questions on WhatsApp and commented on her physical appearance, after which he asked her out. The girl shared screenshots of the messages sent dated November 16 by Rahman, who teaches both the Higher Secondary and the Undergraduate students at the institute.
The girl had not attended class for seven days due to a cold and cough, which appeared to be a conversation starter, after which the screenshot shared by the victim shows Rahman asking the student if she watched porn. After seeing the message, the girl blocked the teacher. He then messaged her on an alternate number, asking her why she blocked his number.
The teacher continued to pass lewd comments and asked her why she used two different numbers and if she’d like to go out with him one day, after which the girl blocked him on her other number as well.
After this news broke on campus, students began protesting and put up images of the screenshots of the chats shared by the girl on the college premises. Following the protests, the sexual harassment committee of the college suspended the teacher for ten days to investigate further.
The girl reportedly took her complaint to the college Principal and other college authorities soon after receiving the text messages.
“We cannot confirm the legitimacy of her complaint yet because the WhatsApp chat screenshots shared by the girl have the teacher’s display picture and the name by which the number was saved in her phone. She blocked the contact, deleted chats and has nothing in her phone now,” a student, who is a member of the college’s student association, told EastMojo.
The college authorities took the girl’s phone to check for the messages. But when they found nothing in it, they returned the phone to her. To lodge a complaint, there has to be more proof than that, so the college authorities called the girl’s guardians, said the student. “We were also present in the meeting. The girl’s mother said the incident caught public attention, and people are now aware of what the teacher has done, and that they do not wish to pursue the complaint,” the student added.
Another student of the same college, on condition of anonymity, said that four other female students of the colleges had allegedly faced similar harassment from the teacher. They had informed other students, but did not wish to file a complaint.
“There is a sexual harassment committee in our college that includes students and senior citizens, which met with the (local) guardians and parents of the girl. During the discussion, the guardians decided not to file the case,” Surajit Dutta, Principal of CNB College, told EastMojo.
The victim lives in Bokakhat with her local guardians.
When asked if the college authorities pressured the parents to not pursue the complaint, the Principal denied the same, saying that the committee is unaware of why the guardians decided not to take the case further.
“The parents don’t want to proceed with the case, but the college authorities will carry out an internal investigation by calling students and questioning them about the teacher’s past behaviour. He was immediately suspended for 10 days,” Dutta confirmed.
Dutta said they had not received any other complaints from students against the teacher in the past. “The teacher has been serving in our college for 7 to 8 years and there has not been a single complaint against him,” the Principal told EastMojo.
A sexual harassment awareness programme —Project Maanush—was conducted in the college in the second week of October to raise awareness about the same, a month after which this incident was reported. The victim had attended the programme whereas the teacher had not, said one of the organisers.
The programme was organised by MAVA (Men Against Violence and Abuse), a Mumbai-based NGO that has been mentoring men to change their dominating attitude towards women, in collaboration with Bodhana, an Assam-based Breast Cancer awareness, education and research centre.
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