Students of the Kalakshetra Foundation on Thursday began an indefinite protest demanding the dismissal of four staff members, who have been accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual abuse. Around 250 students began the protest during the morning prayer and boycotted the day’s examination.
Speaking to The Hindu, representatives of the Kalakshetra Students Union said sexual abuse both – physical and verbal – had been continuing for several years in the institution well-known in the world over for training students in Indian classical arts. “If we take up any issue with the director or other officials they have only asked us to take a transfer certificate and leave. Even if we seek leave for a death in the family, they ask us for proof and refuse leave,” students said.
“We want the assistant professor (dance) and three other repertory artistes, who participate in performances, to be dismissed since they have been accused not by one student but many. We want the students body to be officially recognised. Immediate stopping of body shaming and verbal harassment in the hostels and the institute and changing of the counsellor are our other demands,” student body representatives said.
In the evening, after talks in the presence of the police with the institute director Revathi Ramachandran and other officials, students had initially agreed to withdraw their protest. However, after a statement by Ms. Ramachandran, they decided to continue.
The statement issued to the press said: “There have been some allegations that we are considering. Some of the students of the Foundation have been protesting in our campus. The Director and the Deputy Director from administration have spoken to the students taking into consideration their sentiments and grievances.
On March 29, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) had also visited our campus and made inquiries about the allegations. The Foundation had already sought an explanation from the persons against whom some the allegations have been made, and on the receipt of their explanation, the Chairman and the Governing Board will consider the appropriate action that has to be taken in accordance with its Rules and Regulations and in conformity with the law.
The Chairman and the Governing Board are fully appraised of the protests and grievances and all steps will be taken to ensure that no person who is involved in any unsavory activity in the Foundation will be spared.”
The students were also informed that the college will remain closed from Friday, March 31 for six days but hostelers could remain. The canteen would be closed.
The former student, who had made written complaints about sexual abuse in the institute, said she had not received any response so far. She said she was so traumatised that she quit dancing for a year and a half after leaving her postgraduate course half-way and moving back home. However, after her mother’s insistence she returned to Chennai to learn dance from a teacher, who gave her the courage to lodge a formal complaint.
Members of the CPI(M) and AIDWA spoke in support of the students and noted their complaints.