On 7 February 2016, Eklavya Chaudhuri, a third-year undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University (JU) in Kolkata, stepped up to the stage at a poetry slam event to perform one of his poems. A rising star in the city’s burgeoning poetry scene, Chaudhuri, the son of a senior professor at the university, was a face familiar to much of the audience. The event was at a local café, and in attendance where about 20 or so people—regulars in the poetry circuit. His performance that night, his friends later said, was in his characteristic style: dressed in an oversize shirt with his hair unkempt, the lanky Chaudhuri recited his poems in a high-pitched voice, moving energetically across the stage. His act was met with loud applause from the people in the room.
By the end of July, all of this had changed. On 27 July, a student of JU posted a photo to Facebook. Taken through the window of a classroom, the image showed a lone Chaudhuri sitting on a bench. “Eklavya Chaudhuri attending class as his classmates stand outside in protest,” the student wrote. Chaudhuri’s classmates had refused to sit with him. Many of the students, including his friends, had boycotted the class. Chaudhuri attended the class with only one other student in the room. When he left the classroom at the end of the lecture hour, the students gathered outside applauded, as if cheering his exit.
The applause was a form of protest—an expression of boycott for Chaudhuri. Four days earlier, on 23 July 2016, a student of JU had uploaded a post to Facebook alleging that nearly a year ago, she had repeatedly been sexually assaulted and harassed by Chaudhuri. “I was molested by a classmate of mine, Ekalavya Chaudhuri, on four different occassions within the space of my department,” she wrote. “The person who did this to me was a respected student, a budding academician and an influential member of the exclusive urban intellectual circuit,” she added.