Did Casteism Push Jammu University Professor to Suicide, Days Before Becoming Head of his Department?

SRINAGAR: On World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, a major development took place. The Jammu and Kashmir Police constituted a special investigation team to probe the September 7, suicide of a senior Jammu University professor.

Dr Chander Shekhar Chandra (SC), a Muradabad resident who committed suicide on September 7, 2022, in Jammu University’s Psychology Department, days before he would take over as its head on September 30.

“In connection with the probe of Inquest Proceedings initiated into the death of Chander Shekhar Chandra, Asstt Professor, Jammu University, vide DDR No. 15, dated 07-09-2022 by PP Nehru Market, a SIT is hereby constituted under the supervision of SP City, South Jammu,” an order issued by the SSP Jammu, Chandan Kohli, reads.

To be led by SP South Mamta Sharma, the SIT members include SDPO South City, Sachit Sharma, SHO Gandhi Nagar Police Station, Inspector Pankaj Sharma, Incharge PP Nehru Market, Rohit Gandhi and ASI Ghulam Abbas Shah of PP Nehru Market.

Dr Chandra Shekhar has been an Associate Professor at the University of Jammu’s Psychology department and has served the university for around 16 years. His suicide came within a few moments after he was served a notice that suspended his services as the teacher on basis of the recommendations made veracity’s CASH – Committee Against Sexual Harassment.

The constitution of the SIT came in response to a widespread belief that the teacher was the victim of an alleged conspiracy to prevent him from heading the department. There were some protests by the students and the Scheduled Caste committee has been levelling wild allegations against a number of people within the University. They see it as murder and not suicide.

Dr Nita, his wife and mother of their son and daughter, revealed that her husband was being tortured in the department for being an ST. “At times, I personally saw, they would not even spear a seat for him in official function,” Dr Nita, said. “I did not know that they had accused him of sexual harassment. I came to know about it after his death. But I know him for a long time as my friend and husband. I know he never indulged in these things and instead, he was a great teacher.”

Nita said he joined Jammu University in 2007 and, at times, he felt so tortured that he once put in his papers but the then head “Khan Sahab” tore it to pieces.

What is interesting in the case is that Dr Chandra Shekhar was getting elevated to the position of head of the department on September 30. In anticipation of that, however, 23 students of the department accused him of sexual harassment – for the first time in his career. Working on the allegation, the CASH of the University of Jammu submitted it its report within five days (including two days of holidays and one day dedicated to some other function by the teachers tribe) despite the allegations that all its members were not present. The young psychology doctor was asked not to teach and his services were placed under suspension. The notice – that was recovered from his pocket after he died – was served yto him in the department at a function organised to celebrate the head of department’s birth day.

Dr Chandra Shkhar was found hanging in his room using a rope. His wife asked how the rope was there in the psychology department. She demanded that the Psychology head of the department, Arti Bakshi needs to be investigated. Interestingly, before hanging himself, the psychology professor had written on the board: “Sab sach hai, Kyu ke kahani he juthi hai

Basically hailing from Muradabad in UP, Dr Chander Shekhar is being termed as “an academician of par excellence”, who authored several books on various aspects of human psychology and was often invited to national and international conferences and seminars. During Covid19, he voluntarily delivered lectures on stress management to help people fight the pandemic.

Now when the police have started investigating the case, the concerned people expect the details of the ecosystem that forced the promising academician to take his own life, will be fully probed. Though her family is literally decimated, the only demand of Dr Nita is that the allegations of sexual harassment against her husband should be dropped. “This is the only saw to let his soul be at peace,” she has said.

However, SC community is seeking the transfer of the case to the CBI. They have identified a list of teachers and officials who need to be investigated.

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