Guwahati: Days after the Gauhati High Court granted 21-year-old rape accused and IIT student Utsav Kadam bail, and called him the state’s “future asset”, the survivor, a fellow student at IIT Guwahati, said she felt “alone” and as if she had been relegated to the “sidelines”. The third-year IIT student was allegedly raped by Kadam, her senior in college, in March this year.
The rape survivor’s statement comes in the backdrop of a Gauhati High Court order granting Kadam bail despite noting that there was “a clear prima facie” case against him. Underlining that investigation in the matter was complete and that continued detention of the accused “may not be necessary”, Justice Ajit Borthakur had said on 13 August that “both the informant/victim girl and the accused are the state’s future assets being talented students pursuing technical courses at the I.I.T., Guwahati, who are young in the age group of 19 to 21 years only”.
Since the bail order has come out, the survivor said that she has been receiving messages and seeing social media posts about how it is justified. “I feel threatened by the fact that the moment he came out, people started thinking he is innocent, just because he got bail. I feel alone, I feel like I’m on the sidelines,” she said.
“IIT doesn’t define you. It gives you an opportunity, but not intelligence,” she added. “Being a student here does not ensure that you will be a future asset. I am also an IITian.”
The alleged rape took place on the night of 28 March, when the survivor, then a second-year student, allegedly remained in an unconscious state outside her hostel for nearly two hours before she was found by other students. According to a report by the institute’s Internal Complaints Committee’s (ICC), she remained critical and was subsequently taken to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where she received treatment for a week.
“While I was at the hospital, unable to walk, students from my college were sharing my identity. They would call me a pseudo feminist, that I wanted attention and to destroy his (Kadam’s) career,” she told ThePrint over the phone.
After being released from the hospital, the survivor said she also underwent therapy, with the support of her college authorities. But alleged that was the extent of support she received from them. “I thought the Students Gymkhana Committee (a students union) would stand by me, but they are not.”
The survivor claimed that the alleged rape was preceded by “ragging” by the accused, which she kept ignoring because she alleged “ragging culture is very prevalent in IITs”.
ThePrint reached T.G. Sitharaman, director, IIT Guwahati over phone, but he refused to comment, citing that the matter is subjudice.
‘Hope he gets convicted’
“Truly speaking, no one really cares,” alleged Brijesh Rai, a former assistant professor at the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, IIT-G.
“There isn’t much accountability. A lot of things keep happening … no one is bothered,” added Rai, who taught at IIT for a decade till January 2020.
Three students have also been accused in the March incident besides Kadam. The ICC report recommended “expulsion of one academic semester with immediate effect, expulsion from the hostel for a year and payment of a sum of ₹50,000 each to the victim” for these three. The ICC also favoured “suspended rustication if sexual abuse is proven by a court of law”. The report doesn’t say anything about Kadam since he is facing trial in court. The other three accused are not facing legal proceedings.
Meanwhile, for the survivor, justice remains an uphill battle.
“I am just waiting for the judgment and hope he (Kadam) gets convicted. Some of my friends have cut ties with me. Those who visited me at the hospital were allegedly threatened by seniors … they kept asking if I woke up, what had I said. Eventually, people stopped visiting me,” she claimed.
According to the high court order, Kadam’s lawyer had demanded bail for him, submitting that he “is a young youth aged about 21 years and is a brilliant student of B. Tech Pre-final year of Indian Institute of Technology (‘I.I.T.’ for short), Guwahati in chemical engineering”.
The lawyer also pointed out that Kadam has already spent about 120 days in judicial custody and that investigation in the case is complete.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)