EFLU students in Hyderabad protest all night demanding a sexual harassment committee

Students allege that since June, SPARSH, EFLU’s internal committee, has been defunct with each professor claiming they aren’t in charge of it.
EFLU students stage protest for constituting committee to address sexual harassment.
EFLU students stage protest for constituting committee to address sexual harassment.
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Around 300 students of the English and Foreign Languages University’s (EFLU) held an all-night protest on October 16 at the main gate of the campus in Hyderabad demanding the reconstitution of SPARSH, EFLU’s committee to deal with issues of sexual harassment.  

The protest was triggered by a series of meetings held by the EFLU Student’s Collective and its  Coordination Committee. “We will not budge until our demands are met. We are protesting in shifts till SPARSH (Sensitisation, Prevention and Redressal of Sexual Harassment Committee) is constituted and are boycotting classes as well,” said a member of the Student Collective. The Collective comprises students across political affiliations including the Fraternity Movement and the Students Federation of India (SFI) as well as students who are not a part of any political formation. Students of the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Democratic Students Association (DSA) also took part in the protest.

Students allege that since June, SPARSH has been defunct with each professor claiming they are not in charge of it. SPARSH was constituted under an EFLU ordinance and is based on the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act 2013. While several students were informed by the administration that Revathi Srinivas, a professor in the Department of Materials Development was the SPARSH chairperson, the professor is alleged to have denied this claim. Further, other professors who are supposed to be part of SPARSH have also denied the same, leaving students confused about who is in-charge. 

“Even the student representatives weren’t elected. They were just one day called and nominated to SPARSH and have been inaccessible since,” remarks a student involved with the Coordination Committee.

A poster from the protest at EFLU on Monday, October 16.
A poster from the protest at EFLU on Monday, October 16.

“There are professors, now and in the past, who have been accused of sexual harassment in EFLU,” remarks a female MA second year student. “There is no clarity on who the chairperson is. I have had friends who have been victims of harassment and we have no space to address it,” she adds. 

A PhD second year student belonging to one of the left parties raised the concern that unlike University of Hyderabad (UoH) or the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, there wasn’t a Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GS-CASH) like robust enough mechanism to deal with issues of harassment. “We need potent mechanisms especially in a politically driven place like EFLU which can ensure accountability but there isn’t one,” he says. 

The protest was also an offshoot of the administration remaining unresponsive when the Student’s Collective submitted two petitions asking for the Student Union elections and SPARSH elections to be held. Even at the protest, the University Proctor T Samson remarked students could approach them with any issues until SPARSH was set up but there was no clarity on when that would take place.  

As of the moment, the students are demanding the reconstitution of the SPARSH Committee and that three democratically elected student representatives are appointed to SPARSH of whom one would be a queer person. 

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