JNU Warden Who Acted on ABVP Fire Hazard Now Faces Trumped Up Charges

Jhelum Hostel, JNU. Credit: Jai Pandya/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Jhelum Hostel, JNU. Credit: Jai Pandya/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

New Delhi: The sacred fire of a ‘havan’ has pitted a section of students and the entire teachers’ body against each other at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

For Burton Cleetus, assistant professor of history and warden of Jhelum hostel in JNU, the heat emanating from the ‘havan’ has scalded him badly as a sexual harassment charge against him by students connected to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad has turned his life upside down.

At about 5:30 pm n November 21, 2015, Burton Cleetus and two other wardens, Himanshu and Ashutosh Anand, received a complaint from a Jhelum resident about some students conducting a havan inside one of the hostel rooms.

According to Cleetus, he informed the security guards and arrived at the scene together with them and the two other wardens. He found that there was a gathering of about 20 to 30 students who had come to celebrate the birthday of a JNU student, Jitendra Dhankar. The havan was already over and the wardens found the brazier with burnt coals on the terrace of the hostel. The students were asked to disperse but according to a member of the Jawahral Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) some students began arguing that Hindus were being stopped from practising their religious rituals to mark a birthday celebration. The wardens, after consultation with the provost’s office, issued a show cause notice to two people for creating a fire hazard in the hostel.

Two days later, Cleetus received a call from the Vasant Kunj police station in Delhi saying that a police complaint had been filed against him. A team from the police station arrived the next day to question him and the other wardens. According to the investigating police officer, the complaint filed against Cleetus mentioned that he kicked the havan samagri (prayer material), pulled a student’s ponytails and uttered casteist, communal, and sexist abuses – allegations which not only Cleetus denied but were strongly refuted by the two other wardens who were present at the scene.

An FIR was lodged on November 30 against Cleetus by Jiteendra Dhankar and his two friends which includes a female JNU student which amounts to hurting religious sentiments, sexual harassment and the “Prevention of Atrocities Act”.

“Dr.Cleetus was very angry and uttered cuss words at students who were gathered to celebrate a birthday. There was no havan at all only a simple aarti was done, which is a common ritual in an average Hindu household. When some of the students protested that he should not use foul language and push female students in the room, Dr. Burton said that this will be the next Dadri case and it will snowball into such a huge controversy that it will force PM Modi to resign. The teachers banded themselves together and threatened all the three students who lodged the FIR. We have demanded that Dr.Cleetus resign from the position of warden as a serious case is pending against him in Patiala Court but nothing has happened so far”, said Saurabh Kumar Sharma, a member of the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) and a joint secretary of the JNU Students’Union(JNUSU).

JNUTA has backed Cleetus and took out a huge protest march against the filing of the police complaint. It asked the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) to enquire into the sexual harassment charges and appoint an internal investigation committee into the incident. Sources in JNUTA said that GSCASH has forwarded its findings to the vice chancellor’s office last week along with the university dean’s committee report, which have both cleared Cleetus of any wrongdoing.

“Dr. Cleetus’s bail application is being heard in the Patiala court. He has been singled out for being a Christian and targeted for doing his duty. Everywhere in JNU, all religious festivals are celebrated with equal fervour. So the question of one lone person from one community offending the sensibilities of a large group of students performing a Hindu rite is full of mischief and reeks of a personal vendetta against an individual from a minority community. The police complaint seemed like an afterthought only to harass and demean a professor who has an impeccable track record. Students and teachers together have led collective struggles to raise issues which impacted life in the university and now suddenly there is an effort to divide students on religious lines and vitiate the atmosphere in the university”, said Shehla Rashid Shora of the left- backed All India Students Union (AISA) and vice president of JNUSU.

Cleetus is reluctant to talk about the case as it is sub judice but friends close to him said that he and his family the case is like an unending nightmare. According to them, the charges are part of a larger effort to end the autonomy of the institution by citing issues of intolerance where there is none and by dividing the campus on religious lines.

Anasuya Basu tweets at @anabee588

  • Yogesh Sharma

    JNU is always in news for bad reasons. Beef eating, hug and kiss, lectures by seperatists and radicals, celeberation on the killing of soldiers and mourning on the death or hanging of terrorists, spreading of caste and communal hate in the name of secularism and social justice, opposing the teaching of yoga and sanskrit etc,.etc., JNU is graduating the youth in the wrong direstion.

    • Alpha C.

      A university where students are more in the ideological battlefield giving their every second to keep leftist flag flying high at all cost rather than focussing on academics, this is bound to happen.

  • saptarshi

    Strict action should be taken against Jitendra Dhankar and his cohorts.

  • seenical

    waiting for this dark shadow of BJP rule to end

  • Sumit Gupta

    shame on you for saying ” lets rusticate.”.is university is run by your father money

    • Svayam Anand


      Students sign documents of agreement when applying for housing.

      Its not your fathers money nor obviously your education.

  • madanmohangupta


  • Alpha C.

    Well, it would require a huge leap of faith in 21st Century India to expect that the guilty’ll come out on his own and declare his crime. Shehla Rashid Shora of the left- backed All India Students Union (AISA) and vice president of JNUSU has very conveniently played the communal card by labelling it a Christian vs Hindu affair, and also goes on to say that “there is an effort to divide students on religious lines”. Who’s dividing the campus here? Since the matter is under formal legal investigation, it should be better left on the collective wisdom of the law enforcement agencies to arrive at a conclusion. Many feel that the left sympathisers and leftists of JNU have been radicalised to such an extent that they have transformed the entire university into a platform for politicking and ideological struggle. With its students more on ideological battlefield 24X7 than academics, no wonder despite a budget of 250+ crore per annum, the University is not in the list of even top 200 universities worldwide.

  • Sithanthi Alfred

    Another feather in the cap for the Delhi police,they are in permanent attendance at the beck and call of Nagpur,the capital of India.

  • Pankaj Kumar Singh

    It feel so bad and it is adding bad reputation to startup India. It is the role and responsibility of every citizen to participate in growth of nation and to look into larger interest. I wonder, how students got so much time.


    BJP and RSS planned the drama to defame JNU
    SHAME on govt