Will Political Correctness Define Social Correctness?
The recent media attack against a college principal in Delhi, following the unfortunate attempt at self-immolation by a lady ex-employee of a Delhi college and her subsequent death, has opened up an important agenda before the civil society: political correctness vs social correctness/fairness in dealing with a public issue. The loss of a human life is rather sad. But what we have seen recently is that facts have been overlooked, rather distorted to denigrate and malign the principal who worked very hard to bring order and work culture to his college. Unfortunately, the negative hype deliberately ‘constructed’ against the person is picked up with gusto by the media.
Thus everyone in Delhi, from academic dons to the Aam Aadmi Party, and the usual ragtag of politicians, have entered the fray and held Principal Guljit Arora guilty of being in some way responsible for the death of the lady, a dismissed laboratory attendant of Ambedkar College. Instead of coming to the aid of the academic, who is being harassed by the management, DUTA is busy settling its own scores with the Vice-Chancellor at the cost of the college principal. The media too seems to be baying for blood. While everyone is entitled to opinions, is it not important that the facts are placed on record? Did any news channe/newspaper verify the facts before reporting? Most TV channels and newspapers have reported on Guljit Arora without visiting the college or interacting with the students, teachers and staff currently working there. Even if they had logged on the YouTube and Facebook, another version of events could at least have been placed on record.
Pavitra Bhardwaj, an employee of the college from 2005 to 2012, started complaining against the college administration only after the college started issuing notices related to decorum, discipline and conduct. Her complaints became more intense after the CCTV and biometric system of attendance was installed. She was dismissed after following the due process of law including the departmental inquiry. She lodged complaints with the Delhi Police, VC and the Delhi State Women’s Commission. Detailed and proper enquiries were conducted by these authorities and no substance was found. The Apex Committee of Delhi University conducted a probe, and came to the following conclusion:
“From the examination of documents… and after the prolonged deliberations… Including the personal hearings and depositions… Ms. Pavitra Bhardwaj’s complaint of sexual, physical and mental harassment by the Principal of BRAC could not be established clearly as an offence of a nature of physical or verbal sexual abuse or harassment within the context of Ordinance XV-D.”
She was in the habit of lodging false complaints against her own colleagues. These complaints are on record. She was further encouraged during the past one year by the vested interests including the new management.
What a way to suspend an academic! A meeting is convened at less than 24 hours notice by the Chairman, whose own credentials need to be checked; meeting is held in Haryana State Bhawan, the charge is read out and the verdict is delivered just on the basis of media report rather than facts. The decision is ratified by the VC in fifteen minutes: immense clinical precision and efficiency. The media which had swung into action when Durga Shakti Nagpal was suspended in 41 minutes is not asking any probing or searching questions this time around. Can the VC ratify a decision without seeking the principal’s version? Can the VC disregard the documents already available with him? It seems vested interests had duplicate keys of his office and entered his room on Saturday even before the notice of suspension was served on him. How does one explain that? Principal could have been asked to proceed on ‘leave of the kind due’ or given extraordinary leave till the pendency of the enquiry. But no, the principal has to be hounded out because the issue is ‘sexual harassment’ and state elections are round the corner.
It is indeed important to point out that Principal Arora had written to all the authorities concerned in Delhi, the LG, CM, local police and members of the college GB, that the dismissed employee had approached all forums, including the Delhi State Commission for Women which after an exhaustive enquiry had concluded that there was no merit in the case.
The malaise runs deeper in our social system. We are all so concerned with what appears to be politically correctness that the truth becomes the first causality. What is the locus standi of the DUTA? The employee in question was not a teacher, she was a lab attendant, used to habitual insubordination and late coming, most of which has been captured on the CCTV cameras. At the time of her death, she was not an employee of the college as she was dismissed in 2012. How then is the principal responsible? Is there something like the rule of law in our country? Can we do anything and everything because a vocal influential politically motivated minority gets into action?
And how about our reporters? Have they visited the college? Remember, it’s not in South Delhi. It does not have the ‘chic’ appeal of Stephens/LSR. But for those of us who have visited the college and interacted with the students and teachers, and seen infrastructure bloom will attest to the principal’s personal involvement in the development of the college. We have seen and felt these positive vibrations during our visits to the institution. The college has opened its portals for those who cannot make it to JNU or Stephens or Hindu—and is trying its best to raise their confidence, their self-esteem, and most importantly, their aspirations.
Let not the political correctness in our system arrest social correctness. Please save institutions of higher learning from evolving culture of pseudo-political correctness at the cost of social correctness.
By Sanjeev Chopra, Ashwini Sharma & Faizi Hashmi
(The authors were contemporaries of Guljit at Jawahral Nehru University. Sanjeev Chopra & Faizi Hashmi are IAS officers. Ashwini Sharma teaches at Delhi University.)