Tuesday, October, 03,2023

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Kalakshetra row: Tamil Nadu CM vows action if sexual harassment charges proved

Chennai: A day after protest by students against alleged sexual harassment at Kalakshetra in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin said in the State Assembly that legal action will be taken against those found guilty if the allegations are confirmed.
The chief minister was responding to a special attention-grabbing resolution in the Legislative Assembly regarding the sexual harassment of Kalasetra Foundation. The resolution was put forth by opposition MLAs - Balaji of VCK, Velmurugan of VUK, Selva Perundagai of Congress and others. "Government conducting a proper investigation into this matter and if the charges are confirmed, legal action will be taken against whoever is at fault. It will be taken compulsorily," Stalin told the Assembly.
"All measures are taken to ensure the safety of women protesters. Tamil Nadu police did not receive any official written complaint from the Kalakshetra student union," said Stalin.
CM Stalin said that the National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson who initially wrote to DGP has sent another letter stating that their inquiry had concluded and that they haven't found any evidence of sexual harassment on campus.
Stalin said the police has not recieved any written complaint so far in this issue and that the Foundation has declared a holiday till April 6 for students of the college and directed students to vacate the hostel within two days.
"I contacted the district collector's office and got the details. They have sent the Revenue Divisional Officer, District Collector and Joint Commissioner of Police to collect details and conducted an investigation. This morning again the revenue police team is investigating," said Stalin.
He said that all necessary measures are being taken for the safety of the women students.
"Guards led by a female inspector have been posted for security. The government conducts a proper investigation into this matter and if the charges are confirmed, legal action will be taken against whoever is at fault. It will be taken compulsorily," said the chief minister.
Earlier in the day, the students' Union of Kalakshetra college in Chennai'sThiruvanmiyur wrote to the Union Culture Ministry demanding action against the Director of the Institute and HOD of the dance department over the sexual/verbal abuse allegations against several male faculties.
The Union also demanded reconstitution of the internal complaints committee and also recognised the 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 K.K 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 2 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 3 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.
On Thursday, the Kalakshetra Educational Institute was shut down 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 Kalakshetra Educational Institute, which operates under the control of the central government, sat on a protest inside the institute to take action against the professor who sexually harassed the students.
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 girl victim 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)

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