Syed Junaid Hashmi
JAMMU: Two months after a Ladakhi girl in J&K gathered courage, resisted molestation bid by a powerful and politically well-connected faculty member Dr Bhupesh Khajuria and got an FIR lodged against him; another female medico from the same region has spoken out.
She has narrated her ordeal in a letter addressed to the Principal of Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu Dr Zahid Geelani. The second victim, also belonging to Ladakh, has referred to the Buddhist girl and said that her courage gave her the confidence to speak out against Dr Bhupesh Khajuria whom she preferred calling “molester faculty member.”
Accused, ex-Head of Forensic Sciences Department of GMC Jammu Dr Khajuria is already out on an interim bail granted to him by Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Jammu on January 7, 2017 after he was arrested on December 28, 2016 under FIR 198/16 Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code registered on December 26, 2016, for “assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty”. The sentence carries one to five years in prison.
Accused ex-HOD got interim bail within 10 days of his arrest. The second victim narrated how she confided to a female faculty member about the molestation attempts on her by Dr Khajuria and how she advised her to somehow avoid him and keep mum else this fellow would make sure that she doesn’t get her degree.
Not only me, another Ladakhi girl quit her studies, the victim claimed. “I would have never gathered courage to speak out against what I faced as her student,” the victim said in her communication. “He is shameless moron. He is an animal who doesn’t even look at tears in your eyes.” She was in tears when she began narrating her ordeal.
“The moment I would be around him, he would talk non-sense, make efforts to engage me in talking explicit stuff and then end up, either by trying to kiss me on my cheeks or by forcing me to hug him. I would resist …”, the girl students said. “I have died thousand times since the day this ordeal began.”
“The moment someone would talk about ‘Forensic Science’, I would begin trembling with fear. I would make all efforts not to face this monster but how could I run away from a class which as medico you have to attend, come what may,” added the girl. “My silence had more to do with stigma associated with females for reporting such assaults.”
The moment I would return to the hostel, something in me would stop me from even seeing my face in the mirror, the girl said. “It would be difficult for me for years to come to again start trusting male members of the society.
This girl also wants the principal’s office to forward her complaint to the police for registration of FIR. “I do not want to involve my parents in this since I do not know what their reaction will be. Ours is a traditional family where issues like this lead to family breakdowns,” the girl said. “My parents would be shocked to know this. They may ask me to give up MBBS and return home. If that does not happen, I might to have face a society which doesn’t stand with you when it comes to issues like this. My marriage may become a big issue for my family.”
“It is good when you see your story all over the media. You feel you have won the battle. But the reality is that none follows up these molestation stories once the heat dies down and we return to normal lives,” the girl said. “For you (media), we are news item and for others, we are breakfast, lunch or dinner time story. None can understand the mental agony we have gone through.”
The first victim whose complaint led to registration of a case and subsequent arrest, is angry and agitated. “I hate repeating what I have narrated almost 50 times to 50 different people. It seems my ordeal is nothing but a story for all. I don’t want to repeat what a monster tried to do with me,” she said. “I have been interviewed by a number of news channels and newspapers but what has appeared has left me broken and weak.”
Recovering from the trauma, albeit slowly, this victim said her mother has been a great strength to her.
Both the victims want the doctor teacher be removed from service.
We have received another written complaint against Dr Bhupesh Khajuria,” Principal Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu Dr Zahid Geelani, confirmed. “The complaint has been forwarded to the Gender Harassment Committee (GHC) headed by Dr Bella Mahajan. The committee has the authority to decide whether the same should be forwarded to the police or it can be dealt with at the college level.”
Geelani informed that the reports of the inquires committed simultaneously by Gender Harassment Committee (GHC) of the College and another Panel constituted by Minister for Health and Medical education Bali Bhagat into the complaint of the first victim have already submitted to the Secretary of the Health and Medical Education department.
Dr Bella Mahajan, the head of the Microbiology Department, told Kashmir Life that a faculty member of forensic science department has already communicated her about the second complaint against Dr Khajuria. “It takes a day or two for the complaint to reach to me officially,” said Dr Bella. She added that a good number of female students came forward with statements wherein they mentioned how the accused doctor would harass them.
“We inquired into the first case of molestation and found out a good number of female students coming up with written statements signed by them against Dr Khajuria. We have submitted our report alongwith annexure’s which includes signed testimonies of female as well as male students. Now, it is for the state government to take a decision in this regard,” Dr Bella Mahajan said.
Congress MLA Nawang Rigzin Jora said that many boys and girls from Rajouri, Poonch areas have suffered his molestation. “The boys used to be charged money to pass their paper. Because of fear of failure, these boys and girls, who had initially backed the Ladakhi girl, slowly backed out,” Jora said. “See the video of the first protest in Medical College – there were as many non Ladakhis as there were Ladakhis. They were threatened, hence backed out later.”
Jora said Dr Khajuria isn’t the only one. “There is a small gang of doctors, who have been involved for many years. Should any conscientious citizen- far less a public representative – stand such beasts, that, too, a Professor /HOD.”
Dr Khajuria who has been with the GMC Jammu’s forensic department for 20 years is considered a powerful man who has links with police, politicians and media. He is heading the department for almost a decade now.