CHENNAI: The city police late on Friday night booked an assistant professor Hari Padman in connection with sexual harassment charges levelled against him by students of Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, Kalakshetra Foundation.
The professor was booked after two days of protest by the students demanding action against Hari Padman and a few faculty members.
Hari Padman was booked under IPC Sections 354A (sexual harassment) 509 (use of words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and Section 4 of Women Harassment Act.
The complaint was lodged by a former student at an All Women Police station in the city. Police sources said the man was sending obscene messages and comments to her through social media. The victim had also mentioned that the faculty harassed her while she was studying at the institute and she had to discontinue her studies because of him. The accused kept harassing her even after she left the institution, a senior police officer said.
The development comes on a day when Chief Minister M K Stalin promised thorough investigation and action against wrongdoers in the Tamil Nadu assembly. Over 100 students gave written complaints to the chairperson of the Tamil Nadu women’s commission who visited the campus and also called off their two-day sit-in protest on the campus on Friday.
The protesting students also sent letters to the CM and union culture minister seeking action against four male teachers.
The letter written by a newly-formed Kalakshetra students' union, which was shared by the students with TNIE, said students have been facing sexual and verbal abuse and harassment for decades from assistant professor Hari Padman, and repertory artists Sanjit Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath. They have also been facing body shaming, verbal abuse and casteist remarks from serving director Revathi Ramachandran and head of the dance department, Dr Jyolsna Menon, the letter said.
The management of the foundation failed to give satisfactory answers to queries on why no action was taken on the sexual harassment complaints from students, said AS Kumari, chairperson of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, who conducted an inquiry with the students on the campus for four hours on Friday.
Responding to the issue raised by members of various political parties in the assembly during zero hour, the CM said, "When the issue was brought to my notice, I spoke to the district collector and got the details. A team of revenue and police officials was sent to Kalakshetra for inquiry. On Friday morning, this team met the students and the Kalakshetra administration and had discussions. A police team headed by a woman inspector has been posted there to ensure the safety of the girl students."
Kumari also interacted with a few former students via video call and said she will submit her detailed report to the CM by Monday. "I have received over 100 written complaints from students. We will examine the complaints and will submit our report to the state government by Monday," she said. However, she refused to divulge the complaint details received from students, citing confidentiality.
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Kumari also said the management of the foundation failed to give satisfactory answers to her queries. "The director and deputy director were not present on the campus. I met the principal and when I asked him why no action was taken on the sexual harassment allegations so far, he had no answer," she said.
The women’s panel chief also said that students have expressed their willingness to write the examination which was postponed abruptly by the management on Thursday. "I will take up the issue with the institute’s director. I have also advised the students to call off the agitation," Kumari said.
Over 200 students had started the sit-in protest on the campus on Thursday demanding immediate action against four teachers over sexual harassment allegations.
(With inputs from T Muruganandham)