*Statement of Solidarity with Ms. Sharmishtha Atreja, Assistant Professor, DU*

*Immediately Withdraw the penalty imposed on Sharmishtha!*

*Implement 4% PWD quota in residential allocation.*

*End Gender and Disability related Discrimination in Academic Spaces.*

03 July 2024: The Common Teachers' Forum (CTF) extends its unwavering support to Ms. Sharmishtha Atreja, a 100% visually challanged Woman, working as Assistant Professor with the Department of Philosophy at University of Delhi. We unequivocally condemn the severe discrimination and intimidation perpetrated by the Delhi University administration (along with the office of the Proctor) on Ms. Atreja. 

Ms. Sharmishtha Atreja was appointed to the post of Resident Tutor at the Undergraduate Hostel for the Girls in 2018, but was allocated a residence only after three years in 2021- after her appointment. The accommodation was in a raw and uninhabitable state of maintenance, which she accepted anyway given the urgent need to have an on-campus accommodation. However, after a year long period of getting it cleaned, renovated, repaired and maintained by Sharmishtha and her elderly parents, she was abruptly served a notice to evict the said accommodation as the newly promoted Warden wanted to shift to the said flat from her 2nd floor stay. Her wish was endorsed by the Provost despite she having no benchmark disability.

Ms. Atreja wrote several representations to the Proctor (Prof. Rajni Abbi) and the Vice Chancellor (Professor Yogesh Singh)  explaining her situation and recording the conduct of the Hostel Authorities towards her. This was however, of no resort and she was rather not considered even for the usual 3+3+3 months extension granted in most cases. She, during her stay in the said premises, faced unusual harassment - a large mob rampaged her stuff around her house, threw her things out and harassed her parents, even as her mother kept crying and pleading with them to stop, in an attempt to intimidate her in and outside her own house, to scare her and compel her to evict; all of which happened in the presence of the Warden, Dr. Suman Yadav. 

She was also harassed by the Provost Prof. Sarasvathi and Proctor, Prof. Rajni Abbi for getting CCTV cameras installed outside her house in order to identify the assailants. She was also subjected to repeated verbal harassment including the use of anti-disability remarks and character assassination.

Getting no response to her representations, Ms. Atreja approached the Delhi High Court against the October 2023 penalty order given by the Estate on the  bases of the eviction orders issued by the Provost(endorsed by the Proctor). An alternative Accommodation near her work-place was allotted after  the Honourable Delhi High Court's direction, which subsequently also directed the University to allow her fair representation and re-consider the matter sympathetically. The University however, recomputed the amount to around 13 lakhs  (adding the months where in the University was ordered by the court to find a suitable accommodation for her, in clear contempt of the letter and spirit of the Honorable High Court's order). This was when the license fee, Water charges and the House Rent Allowance was regularly being deducted from her monthly salary during her stay. Moreover, the penalty amount has been given without providing her any detailed break-up of the computation. To the best we could find out, the University administration imposed a monetary penalty of Rs. 8,75,250 in October, 2023 (revised to Rs. 6,74,100); subsequently, Rs.13,32,155 in June, 2024 (discounted to Rs. 6,66078). They have started recovery through salary deduction of Rs.33,885 in the month of June 2024 and her in-hand monthly salary only being around Rs.70,000, leaving her with insufficient funds to take care of herself and her elderly parents, as a Visually challenged Single Woman and a Single earner. The latest development in the case being the notice issued by Justice Sanjeev Narula on the 3rd of July, 2024 (written order), directing the University to take no further coercive action till the next date of hearing and to file its response within 4 weeks. 

We wish to highlight that Ms. Atreja is a Single Woman and Single earner who supports her elderly parents and has been living with 100% visual disability. She is a late blind person and hence needs more support to travel to and from her work. That 'an acceptable ground-floor residence be allotted to her, as close to the Campus as possible, at the earliest', is not only something stipulated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act 2016, but is also a very basic moral and ethical obligation of the University. Even though she has now been provided with an accommodation at Maurice Nagar, after the Court's intervention, the arbitrary penalty imposed upon her is absolutely unacceptable and condemnable, to say the least.    

CTF demands that the monetary penalty imposed on Ms. Sharmishtha Atreja be immediately withdrawn in toto. We also demand strict action against everybody complicit in the harassment faced by her. Authorities should also take immediate action to ensure Ms. Atreja's safety and well-being and investigate and address the intimidation and abuse she has faced, while being forced to evict her erstwhile accommodation. 

As a Teachers' group committed to promoting Workers' rights, Human Rights, Inclusion, Fair opportunity and Dignity of work for all, we stand firmly
with Ms. Sharmishtha and offer our unflinching support to her. We recognize that her struggle is not hers alone, but a reflection of broader challenges faced by Persons with disabilities even more so, Women with disabilities, in academic and other workspaces. We reaffirm our commitment to challenge injustice and work towards a world where all individuals are treated with respect, dignity, and equality.

We call upon all progressive groups and individuals to lend solidarity to Ms. Atreja in her courageous fight for justice and amplify her voice by supporting her and all others in the pursuit of a just and equitable society.

*Issued by: Pema Yolmo and Anshuman Singh, Coordinators Common Teachers' Forum & Sachin N, Elected DUTA Executive 2023-25*

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