A female student has raised allegations of sexual harassment against an assistant professor of Jahangirnagar University’s government and politics department.
On Monday, the victim took a large number of sleeping pills while she was at a relative’s house in Dhaka. Her friends then took her to a Savar hospital.
“I took the pills because I was tormented by the mental trauma I was going through,” she told The Daily Star On Wednesday from the hospital bed.
Earlier on September 19, she filed a complaint to the department head, detailing how Sanwar Siraj, an assistant professor who was her course instructor, harassed her.
In the complaint, she mentioned that Siraj started making advances towards her since March last year. She had visited him in his office with a friend to discuss syllabus for an upcoming exam, and the teacher obtained her number then, saying he doesn’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
On the evening of the exam on March 12, Siraj called her to ask how her exam went. The same night, he started sending her inappropriate messages on Facebook messenger, the victim wrote in the complaint. The Daily Star has obtained evidence which supports her claim.
She asked Siraj in person to stop this behaviour, but he continued tormenting her through lewd remarks via calls and messages. At that time, the victim consulted her classmates and teachers, who told her to wait until the exams end to file an official complaint.
The victim said in the complaint she was traumatised by this continued harassment. She alleged that Siraj unfairly marked her exam papers as she continued to reject his advances.
In August last year, the victim raised the issue publicly at a seminar in the department. She alleged that the then chairperson, Prof Shamsunnahar Khanam, did not like her speaking up in a public forum, and she later met with the chairperson with all evidence.
“She told me to forget about this and focus on my career,” the victim’s complaint reads.
In the written complaint filed to the current chairperson, the victim demanded exemplary punishment for Siraj, and asked for reassessment of her exam paper.
However, the victim mentioned that she is sure that the anti-sexual harassment cell will not provide her justice as she has had bitter experience with its chief previously.
Prof Nasrin Sultana, incumbent chairperson of government and politics department, said that she received the complaint on September 19 and she had been waiting for some more documents.
“I forwarded it to the anti-sexual harassment cell on Wednesday,” she added.
Prof Rasheda Akhtar, chief of anti-sexual harassment cell said, “I am not the only one in this committee; there are six members. Truth will come out after everyone’s investigation.”
Meanwhile, Prof Shamsunnahar denied all allegations. “I did not get any written complaint from the victim. When she raised her complaint in a public programme, I just said that she should file a written complaint with proper documents,” she claimed.
The accused Sanwar Siraj said, “Anyone can bring allegations against someone. But it does not prove that I am guilty. There is a body and they will investigate the complaints. If I do anything wrong, I will be punished.”
On the topic of unfairly marking exam scripts, he said that he marks exam papers based on what students write and those who don’t write well get lower marks.