Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Woman forced to quit job and denied justice after sexual harassment

Woman forced to quit job and denied justice after sexual harassment

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) published a report on the case of Ms. Lara (name changed to protect identity), a victim of sexual harassment from Assam state. It is reported that the victim had to resign from her job since her superior colleagues tried to sexually molest her. On the day of her resignation, the suspected officers tried to rape the victim at their office. The police, despite having registered a case against the suspects are now demanding the victim to forgive the suspects and settle the case.

It is reported that on 2 December 2010 at about 2.30pm, Lara's two senior colleagues, Mr. Sandip Sarkar and Mr. Rajeeb Nath, assaulted, molested and attempted to rape Lara at the office of her company. Lara worked as an office assistant and computer operator at Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd., first at Aizwal Branch in Mizoram state and subsequently at Bhaga Branch in Assam state in India. The incident happened at the regional office of the company, where she was asked to report by her seniors. The company where Lara was employed is a subsidiary of Rose Valley Group with Registered Head Office at RGM-25/3010, Raghunathpur, VIP Road, Kolkata - 700059, West Bengal.

Sarkar is the Assistant Regional Manager at the regional office at Silchar, Assam state. Sarkar called Lara on 18 November 2009 at about 9pm on her mobile telephone and demanded sexual favours from Lara. Lara refused and requested Sarkar not to use such language with her in the future. Due to this, Lara alleges that Sarkar deliberately transferred her from her hometown Aizawl, Mizoram state to an office in Bhaga which is nearer to the regional office (about 45 Kilometres from Silchar).

Lara alleges that Sarkar then repeatedly called her and continued using unsolicited and sexually implicit language in the conversations, despite Lara's request to stop it. Lara claims that Sarkar also tried requesting Lara's colleague, Ms. Dolly (name changed), to convince Lara to pay heed to Sarkar's unsolicited demands. Both Lara and Dolly being subordinate staff were helpless and worse, it was impossible for them to avoid Sarkar's calls.

On one occasion Sarkar asked Lara and Dolly to come at Silchar regional office at 4pm. Lara and Dolly informed Sarkar that the last bus from Silchar to Bhaga stops at 4pm, so it would be impossible for them to return. Sarkar then offered Lara and Dolly to stay at a hotel at Silchar. However, they refused to travel to Silchar on that occasion.

Both Lara and Dolly complained to the Senior Marketing Officer Mr. Mrinal Kanti Dutta about the harassment to which Sarkar subjected them. Dutta enquired into the matter. Instead of taking action against Sarkar, Dutta and the vigilance officer of the company requested Lara and Dolly to forgive Sarkar for the sake of the company’s name and goodwill.

Lara alleges that due to the complaint, Sarkar withheld her salary increment by misusing his senior position in the company. It is alleged that soon another senior colleague, Mr. Rajeeb Nath, became Sarkar's accomplice in his misadventures against Lara. Nath contacted Lara and informed her that her pending salary increment would be released only if Lara agreed to Sarkar's unsolicited requests for sexual gratification. Nath also informed Lara that she would be posted to her hometown Aizawl branch should she comply. Lara once again refused to yield to the demands. Sarkar and Nath continued harassing Lara regularly over the mobile telephone continuously then on.

The situation gradually became so unbearable to Lara that she decided to resign. Lara submitted her resignation letter on 2 November 2010 to Mr. Jyoti Prasad Mohan, the Regional Manager, requesting the company to relieve her from the job on 30 November 2010. The same day, Lara went to the regional office at Silchar for the final settlement of her salary and other dues including the amount due to her from the Employees' Provident Fund. Lara reached the regional office at Silchar by noon and found the Regional Manager not at the office.

Sarkar was in-charge of the regional office in the absence of the Regional Manager. It is alleged that Sarkar intentionally kept Lara waiting outside his cabin until 2.30pm. When Lara entered the cabin and took a seat, Sarkar called Nath over his extension to visit him. Nath came to the room immediately. Thereafter, both Sarkar and Nath asked Lara to stay in a hotel and have sex with them. They also told Lara that all her problems would be resolved if she obliged.

Lara sternly rejected the proposal and stood up from the chair. Suddenly, both Sarkar and Nath jumped over Lara and assaulted her physically. Both tried to overpower Lara and rape her then and there. Lara gathered strength and started shouting for help. Other colleagues in the office assembled near the room after hearing Lara shouting for help. However, Sarkar and Nath managed to escape from the office. Lara alleges that Sarkar was vigorously trying to remove her shirt. While they escaped, Sarkar snatched Lara's gold chain that she was wearing. In the attempt to snatch the chain, Sarkar tore off Lara's shirt. Lara alleges that the chain is worth Rs. 15,000.00.

Immediately after the incident, Lara filed a complaint at the Vairangte Police Station in Kolasib district, Mizoram state. The officer-in-charge (OC) forwarded the complaint to the Silchar Sadar Police Station on 3 December 2010. It was reported that on 4 December 2010 the OC of Silchar Sadar Police Station registered a case, number 2254 under Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman) and 427 (mischief causing damage) read with Section 34 (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) against Sarkar and Nath.

It is also reported that Mr. Puia, Sub-Inspector of police is the Investigating Officer (IO) in the case. Lara alleges that the IO did not show any interest in investigating the case. Instead, the IO made several calls to Lara from various telephones asking her whether she wanted to rejoin the company or would join any other work. The IO expressed his readiness to help Lara in either way. According to Lara, the IO made his last call from the mobile number +91-94352 95037 at 6.27pm on 18 January 2011.

Lara suspects that the police is under the influence of Sarkar and Nath, for which they are using their position in the company. Lara alleges that the case would never be investigated and even today the police have failed to properly record her statement or to question other witnesses to the incident. Lara also fears that she will receive no further protection from her assailants, should they try to hurt her further or threaten her.

1 comment:

Cheryl Ahmed said...

In Braintree, Massachusetts, USA, I was arrested and thrown in jail on false charges after I complained of being sexually harassed. The took away my job, and I almost lost my house to foreclosure. There is a police surveillance camera where it all happened, but the police destroyed the videotape of the creep chasing me down and trying to punch me, and the police writing up false reports and arresting me on false charges.
-Cheryl Ahmed