The other day I asked my students to express their views on the ongoing MeToo movement and also sought to know how the movement could be used to instil confidence among girl students. A lot of reactions poured in. A boy suggested that the arc of the movement be broadened. It should be made a part of the curriculum, and taught in a way that the purpose of the movement to name and shame tormentors is met effectively. Another student favoured that eve-teasers or those who misbehave with girl students be punished academically. The internal assessment of such boys could be linked to their conduct. Au contraire, the good guys should be honoured and given an edge in internal assessment. That ‘character certificate’ to a ‘bad’ guy be denied, was a suggestion that came from a girl student. The college should link character certificate of a student to his or her good behaviour, both in letter and spirit. If a wrong-doer pressed for such a certificate, he should be issued one, but the misdemeanour should be clearly stated in the certificate. The college should highlight its policy in this regard on its website and prospectus.
The wildest, but highly sensitive idea came from another girl, who called for stern action against those girls who levelled false allegations against innocent boys to settle a personal score. Such girls should be rusticated or debarred from pursuing their courses, at least for a year. Impressed with their brilliant ideas, I casually shared these ‘bold and beautiful’ ideas with my wife, who, in turn, shared them with a friend who was a principal. Lo and behold, the lady principal, whose school was facing the biggest challenge from eve-teasers, put all these ideas into practice. A notice was issued to all students, wherein the ideas were unambiguously mentioned. A copy of the notice was also sent to parents. The notice received a positive response. Within a few months, the incidents of eve-teasing saw a decline. Boys started behaving decently with their classmates. At the Parent-Teacher Meet, parents praised the efforts of the principal to introduce discipline among students. Some parents hailed it as a game-changer, as it injected confidence of the highest degree in their daughters. Earlier, they often complained of being teased by college Romeos. The fear of being harassed by boys had vanished to a great extent. Even a few boys, who were earlier bullied by rowdy elements, breathed easily now, without any fear of being targeted.
The big change on the ground made me realise that an idea could establish a chain reaction, which could usher in the much-needed change. Remember, ‘Sharare hi aage chalkar shola bante hain!’ (sparks become fireballs).