Kalakshetra alumna files sexual harassment complaint, teacher booked by Chennai police

The woman, who had studied from 2015 to 2019 and then discontinued, has filed a written complaint against a teacher, police confirmed; an FIR has been registered against the teacher, Hari Padman

March 31, 2023 10:41 am | Updated April 01, 2023 05:08 pm IST - CHENNAI

Students of Kalakshetra continued their protest on Friday, March 31

Students of Kalakshetra continued their protest on Friday, March 31 | Photo Credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

An alumna of Kalakshetra filed a complaint of sexual harassment against a teacher, at the Adyar All Women Police Station on Friday.

Confirming the development, a senior official of the city police said the woman, who had studied from 2015 to 2019 and then discontinued, has filed a written complaint against a teacher.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against Hari Padman, one of the four people who have been accused of sexual harassment at Kalakshetra Foundation’s Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts in Chennai. He has been booked by the All Women Police, Adyar under 354-A (Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment) of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the TN Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, based on a complaint given by a female student. 

Union formed

Students of the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, under Kalakshetra Foundation, formed a union on Thursday. They have also urged the Union Ministry of Culture to act against the director and the head of the dance department.

The students started a protest on Thursday, demanding the dismissal of four staff members accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual abuse. Around 250 students began the protest during the morning prayer and boycotted the day’s examination.

In a letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Culture, sent early Friday, the students requested the immediate recognition of the union formed with Jisma K.K. as president and Sakthi Shivani as secretary. The letter said the current and former students had faced years of sexual and verbal harassment by Assistant Professor Hari Padman, and Repertory Artists Sanjit Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath. “Going beyond these four faculty members, students have faced body-shaming, verbal abuse, casteist remarks by the serving director, Revathi Ramachandran, and head of the dance department Dr. Jyotsna Menon,” it noted.

The letter said the affected students had refrained from going public for fear of retribution and dismissal from the institution. “Many students have attempted to raise these concerns and complain to Ms. Ramachandran, verbally, over the past five years during her directorship, but our concerns have been stonewalled,” the letter said. The complaints included written letters by a former student and three current students, and letters supportive of the complainants by a faculty member and a former student.

The students demanded action against Ms. Ramachandran and Dr. Menon and the constitution of an internal complaints committee (ICC), with an external presiding officer appointed by the governing board, in consultation with the students’ union. “The ICC must include a students’ representative decided by the union,” the letter said. Until the demands were met, the students decided to continue their sit-in.

On Friday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin, made an announcement in the Legislative Assembly, stating that action would be taken with regard the sexual harassment complaints.

Later in the day, A.S. Kumari, Chairperson, State Commission for Women, visited the campus to inquire with the protesting students. She said a report would be submitted to the government on Monday.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma had visited Kalakshetra Foundation. The visit came after the NCW communicated to the Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police (DG) that it had decided to close the Kalakshetra complaint, based on media reports, and the fact that women refused to confirm sexual harassment at the ICC meeting.

The NCW got involved in the matter on March 21, when it tweeted and asked the DGP to file an FIR against a teacher accused of sexually harassing minor students.

In a statement issued last week, Kalakshetra Foundation chairman S. Ramadorai had said the ICC had suo motu initiated an inquiry and found the charges of sexual harassment baseless.

On Friday, Additional Commissioner of Police (South) Prem Anand Sinha told presspersons that last week, information was received that a sexual harassment complaint was received by the NCW, which inquired into the issue and gave a report. The NCW later informed that it was closing this case. An agitation began this week and intensified, with 50-60 students staging a sit-in on the campus on Thursday night. The city police have deployed their personnel outside the campus, he added.

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