Kalakshetra professor booked in sexual harassment case

Representational image.

Chennai: A case has been registered against an assistant professor of an arts college belonging to the Kalakshetra Foundation after a former girl student filed a sexual harassment complaint.

The assistant professor Hari Padman was booked under the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Woman Act.

The Adayar All women police registered the FIR against Hari Padman after the girl student met the Chennai city police commissioner Shankar Jiswal who promptly forwarded the complaint to the Adayar Women Police station.

Hundreds of girls from the Kalakshetra Foundation conducted a sit-in dharna on Friday complaining of sexual harassment and sending obscene messages against four male faculty members.

Addressing reporters here, the Tamil Nadu Women's Commission chairperson A.S. Kumari said that several complaints were received from girl students against teachers on sexual harassment.

The chairperson also met several students and teachers as well as the director of the Kalakshetra foundation, Revathi Ramachandran.

It is to be noted that several girl students have in private said that they were not able to go to the institution for fear of being sexually harassed.

The girl students have also complained to the Union Ministry of Culture about the harassment meted out to them and requested for stern action against those responsible.

CM assures legal action
Chief Minister M K Stalin on Friday assured the state Assembly of appropriate legal action on the allegation of sexual harassment of women students at Kalakshetra Foundation.

Replying to legislators who raised the issue of alleged sexual harassment, Stalin said when this matter was brought to his notice, he sent police and revenue department officials to the institute and they held inquiries.

A panel of senior revenue and police officials is holding talks with students and the management.

"All steps have been taken for the security of students," the Chief Minister said, adding that police personnel led by a woman inspector have been deployed on the premises.

"If the allegation of harassment is established during inquiry, appropriate legal action will be taken, whoever may be the perpetrators," he said.

Speaking of how the allegations came to the notice of the State government, Chief Minister Stalin said that the National Commission for Women had tweeted about alleged "sexual harassment" in Kalakshetra and written to the Director General of Police on March 21 requesting action.

Following this, Kalakshetra Foundation Director Revathi Ramachandran met the DGP and claimed that there was 'no complaint' of sexual harassment.

The NCW later wrote to the DGP saying it had completed the inquiry. Subsequently, on March 29, however, the NCW chief visited Kalakshetra and interacted with 210 women students.

"At that time, the NCW chairperson said that there was no need for the police to accompany them," the CM said. "There is no written complaint to police so far."

Following protests by students, the foundation declared a holiday for the institute and instructed students to vacate their hostel rooms.

MLAs including T Velmurugan (DMK) and Ku Selvaperunthagai (Congress) raised the issue. While Velmurugan demanded justice, Selvaperunthagai alleged sexual harassment had been going on at the institute here for about 10 years. He also named an assistant professor and dance instructor and urged action against them, saying they had sexually harassed students.

Meanwhile, a former student has reportedly lodged a written complaint to the police alleging sexual harassment, and students have also written to Stalin and the Union Culture Ministry seeking action. They temporarily suspended their protest.

Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women chairperson A S Kumari said she inquired with students on the matter. She said she would submit a report to the government and whatever action is warranted would be taken. She said some former students also spoke to her and alleged that such harassment has been going on since 2008.

On what students conveyed to her regarding the alleged sexual harassment, she said it was confidential and would be detailed in the report to the government.

Students have also given their allegations in writing, she said, adding, "The allegations of students is against four persons (faculty). This is a sensitive matter."

She said she urged the students to give up their protest and focus on academics. Also, she said she would speak to the Kalakshetra management on the matter.
(With agency inputs)

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