Protesting Mahatma Gandhi University researcher accuses colleague of sexual harassment

The research scholar, who had launched the hunger strike in front of the university on October 29, told reporters the sexual harassment happened in 2014.

Published: 04th November 2021 06:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th November 2021 06:27 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

KOTTAYAM: The indefinite hunger strike launched by a research scholar at the Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU) — alleging caste discrimination on the part of the university authorities and citing difficulties in completing her work — took a new turn on Wednesday after she raised sexual harassment charges against a fellow researcher.

The research scholar, who had launched the hunger strike in front of the university on October 29, told reporters the sexual harassment happened in 2014. “Sreenivasa Rao, a research fellow at the university, forcefully held my hand when we were about to leave the classroom. I somehow managed to escape from the spot,” she said.

Though she reported the incident to then director Sabu Thomas — the current MGU vice-chancellor — and joint director Nandakumar Kalarikkal of the university centre where she started her research, they ignored her complaint and took a stand protecting the accused, she alleged. She said one of the university staff members too misbehaved with her, and he continues to work there.

Sabu dismissed the allegation and said he never received such a complaint, either verbally or in writing. 
“I have been constantly interacting with her since 2014, but she never reported any such incident to me. We stand for the students. I would have made an inquiry had I received any complaint. I heard about the incident only a couple of days ago when the university held talks with her in connection with her strike,” he said.

The VC said he is ready to conduct an inquiry if he gets a complaint. “I am ready to support her and I myself will supervise her. She should return to the laboratory and complete her studies,” he said.
The research scholar said the delay in filing a complaint was due to fear. “I had reported the incident to the director and joint director of the centre, but no action was taken. I will file a complaint before the district collector soon,” she said. 

The PhD student has been protesting against MGU authorities ever since she joined MPhil in 2011, for alleged discrimination. Later, when she began doctoral studies, the issues aggravated and she raised allegations like not being allowed to enter the laboratory and facing casteist remarks from Nandakumar. 
Based on her complaint, the MGU syndicate had initiated action against him, but he secured a favourable order from the High Court. 


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