'Not absolutely cleared' but Central University reinstates poetry teacher accused of sexual harassment

  • Internal Complaints Committee ignores two new complaints of sexual harassment reported to it during the hearing
  • University institutes a departmental inquiry, refrains Efthikar Ahamed from academic activities of first years PG English students, who are the complainants
Assistant Prof Efthikar Ahamed B (left) and Central University of Kerala (right). Photo: Facebook and File Image

Kasaragod: Central University of Kerala on Friday, February 23, revoked the suspension of Assistant Professor Efthikar Ahamed B, accused by 34 students of giving lewd lectures under the garb of poetry class, and allegedly molesting a student who fainted in the class. 

The faculty member of the Department of English and Comparative Literature was suspended nearly three months ago on November 28, 2023.

In his order revoking the suspension, Vice-Chancellor in charge Prof Baiju K C refrained Efthikar Ahamed from all academic activities of the department's first-year postgraduate students, who are the complainants.

The order said Efthikar Ahamed was being reinstated with immediate effect based on the recommendation of the university's Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and minutes of the Suspension Review Committee.

However, the 11-member ICC -- headed by Prof Germina K A of the Department of Mathematics -- did not give a clean chit to Efthikar Ahamed. 

The ICC's report, accessed by Onmanorama, said that during the inquiry, two more students reported to the committee about "unwanted" and "inappropriate physical touch" from Efthikar Ahamed in the classroom. But the ICC -- which had 16 sittings in three months -- was satisfied with Efthikar Ahamed's denial of the charges and did not delve into the new allegations. 

The report, however, helpfully noted that Efthikar Ahamed has been doing "PR work for the department and the university" since he joined the university on December 10, 2015.

On the original complaint, the ICC examined 48 witnesses, and statements of the aggrieved students, and found that Efthikar Ahamed "is not absolutely cleared from the sexually oriented verbal remarks and irksome comments while schooling".

"He shall be advised to refrain from such annotations and connotations which are not necessarily warranted," said the ICC report.

On the alleged molestation of the student, who fainted while writing the exam, the ICC said that the student's written statements and her oral statements during the hearing "were not matching completely". "Therefore, ICC is not in a position to make a conclusion on this particular incident," the report said.

Students flagged the ICC's inquiry in January's first week
On November 14, 34 students filed a joint complaint with the ICC saying Efthikar Ahamed "crossed all boundaries" by allegedly molesting the female student. 

They said in the complaint that they had been facing sexual harassment since the beginning of class in September as Efthikar Ahamed indulged "in major conversations about sex, sexual pleasure, and other forms of pleasure, under the garb of interpreting poetry and literature". They told the ICC during the hearing that his vulgar, filthy, explicit, and sexually coloured remarks created an overbearing and intimidating situation for some students.

According to the report, the students told the ICC that they were waiting for a female Head of the Department to take charge to file a complaint. To be sure, Associate Professor S Asha became the Head of the Department on November 1, 2023, replacing Prof Joseph Koyippally Joseph. The students had confided in Dr Asha before approaching the ICC. 

On November 15, a day after the students filed the complaint, Dr Asha also wrote to the ICC to not disclose the complaint with any male faculty members in the department "to ensure the anonymity and safety of the complainant", said the report.

Apart from the joint complaint signed by 34 students, 24 students lodged individual complaints with the ICC against Efthikar Ahamed during the hearing. 

On January 5, 18 students wrote to the Vice-Chancellor in charge Prof Baiju that they were not happy with the proceedings of the ICC. The email contained several pieces of correspondence between ICC's presiding officer Prof Germina and the head of the department Dr Asha. The VC forwarded the mail to the ICC only on January 16. 

On January 24, the ICC finalised its report with three recommendations: one, institute a departmental inquiry against Efthikar Ahamed; two, he should refrain from all academic activities of the first-year postgraduate students, who are the complainants; and three, he should maintain decorum and harmony in the classroom.

The Vice-Chancellor accepted all three recommendations in toto in his order reinstating him. 

Now, a police case is pending against Efthikar Ahamed. Bekal police had booked him under three counts of sexual harassment after the university forwarded the complaint to them. 

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