Kalakshetra’s Students Sever Communication With Media
Image courtesy: Kalakshetra Foundation.
Students of Kalakshetra Foundation who had protested the alleged sexualharassment of female students of Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts by four faculty members last week have cutoff communication with the media.Office-bearers of the student council didn’t respond to Newsclick’s calls and messages.
The students have also cut off communication with the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), who had joined their protest.
The accused teachers have been suspended with assistant professor Hari Padmanarrested and a criminal case lodged against him on April 3.
The Kalakshetra administrationpostponed the exams, announced closure of the institute till April 6 and askedthe students to vacate the hostel.
STUDENTS IN FEAR
The Kalakshetra Foundation students had come out on the streets and held an all-night protest but were hesitant to file a complaint with the police.
“Many government officials, such as Velacherry tehsildar, assistant commissioner of police, RDO, etc, had told the students that action can be taken only if they file a complaint. But the students were scared to register a complaint,” Bharathi,from SFI Tamil Nadu, toldNewsclick.
Action was initiated only after a sexual harassment complaint was filed by a former woman student of the institution.
Sources say that students are not satisfied with the National Women's Commission’s intervention and the manner in which it is handling the sensitive issue.
“The women’s commission visited the campus only briefly. It was done in a hurry and they allegedly questioned only two people in detail,” Bharathi added.
SFI and AIDWA in solidarity with protesting Kalakshetra Foundation students. Image courtesy: SFI.
P Radhika, Tamil Nadu AIDWAgeneral secretary, told Newsclickthat the women’s commission “has asked the students to speak up about the harassment among a group of people. Members of the administration and police personnel were present. How will the students talk openly”?
“There should be a healthy atmosphere for students to speak up boldly. The Commission should once again inquire from the respective studentsin the absence of administration officials,” she said.
Bharathi said the students have “stopped communicating with anyone since that day. They are in fear and confused about how to take the issue forward”. The AIDWA has demanded that the Commissionreinitiate a proper inquiry.
The students alleged that the Kalakshetra Foundation management tried to “cover up sexual harassment” in the past.
“Kalakshetra students have been raising sexual harassment issues since 2008 but the management has suppressed their concerns. Three complaints were filed with the ICC but the management forced the students to withdraw them,” Bharathi alleged.
“The victims had to interact with the accused teachers on a daily basis. The students said that the teachers would touch them unnecessarily while teaching dance and also engage in moral policing,” he said.
“The students protested only after they felt that the harassment had gone out of limit and they were unable to handle the situation. They recently formed a 12-member student council to raise sexual harassment issues,” he added.
The students also accused the institute of felicitating the accused teachers.“OnWomen’s Day, one of the male professors against whom complaints were lodged was honoured. What was the management trying to say by honouring a harasser on Women’s Day? The students felt it was a way to silence them,” Bharathi further alleged.
The AIDWA plans to appeal to the ministry of culture to take action against the institute for being allegedly complicit in sexual harassment.
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