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Chennai's Kalakshetra students write to Culture Ministry demanding action on sexual abuse complaints
Chennai: Students Union the Kalakshetra Foundation's Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts in Tamil Nadu's Chennai have written to the Union Culture Ministry demanding action against the Director and the Head of the Dance department of the institution.
The letter informs that the students formed an Union on March 30 with with office bearers Jisma KK as President and Sakthi Shivani as Secretary. The students are demanding the dismissal of four staff members accusing them of inapporpirate behaviour and sexual/verbal abuse. The Union also demanded reconstitution of the internal complaints committee and also recognise the students' union which was formed on Thursday.
In the letter, the Union said, "We the students of Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, would like to inform you that we have formed a Students Union today, Thursday, March 30, 2023, with office bearers Jisma KK as President and Sakthi Shivani as Secretary."
"We write to you as this institution is under your Ministry's direct management. These incidents pertain to instances of decades of sexual abuse and allegations by current and former students. These instances involve several serving male teachers at the institution, one of whom has been here for close to two decades", reads the letter.
The letter mentioned the names of Assistant Professor Hari Padman, and Repertory artists Sanjit Lal, Sai Krishnan and Sreenath.
It also further stated, "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. The affected students have refrained from speaking publicly for fear of retribution and dismissal from the institution. They also wish to maintain privacy, particularly those who have been facing sexual abuse and harassment."
The Union also added that the concerns raised and complaints by many students earlier were blindsided by the Director.
"The complaints include written letters by a former student and three current students. They also include letters supportive of the complainants by a faculty member and a former student. As our complaints have been summarily dismissed we write to you demanding to take necessary action towards Director Ramachandran and Head of Dance Department, Dr Jyolsna Menon", reads the letter.
The letter further said, "We also demand reconstitution of the internal complaints committee, with the presiding officer who is an external member appointed by the governing board in consultation with the Students Union. The IC must include a Student representative decided by the Students Union. We demand the immediate recognition of the Students Union which has been formed today."
The letter also said that until the demands mentioned in the letter are met, the students will continue their sit-in protest within the Kalakshetra premises.
Earlier on Thursday, the Kalakshetra Educational Institute was shut after a protest by students over the lack of action against the professor who allegedly sexually harassed the students, informed the institute's authorities.
The students of the Institute, which operates under the control of the Central government, sat on a protest inside the institute. Students raised allegations on social media that a professor was sexually harassing students.
Subsequently, the National Commission for Women ordered the Tamil Nadu Police to conduct an investigation.
A complaint had been filed by a student from Kalakshetra at Adyar Police Station.
Earlier on March 25, the official handle of the National Commission for Women (NCW) wrote, "As per media report, in the case of sexual harassment allegations at Kalakshetra institution, the Director's clarification and the internal complaints committee report did not find any evidence of sexual harassment on campus.
"National Commission for Women withdrew its order for a police investigation on the grounds and it is informed that no one had been sexually harassed there."
"The Commission has concluded to close the matter as the victim has denied sexual harassment while she was inquired by the IC committee," it further read.
The administration is reluctant to take action against the concerned teacher as they have been working for a long time and all the students studying there have joined the sit-in protest to demand appropriate action against the concerned teachers.
The students said that the protest will continue in the absence of any concrete response from the college administration regarding taking formal action against the professor.
The institution said that the Director and the Deputy Director from the administration have spoken to the students taking into consideration the sentiments and grievances of the students."On March 29, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) also visited our campus and made enquiries about the allegations," it added.
The Foundation had already sought an explanation from the persons against whom some allegations have been made and on 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 protests and grievances and all steps will be taken to ensure that no person who is involved in any unsavoury activity in the Foundation will be spared, the statement read. (ANI)