A year after a student at Maharani college filed a complaint of sexual harassment against a Kannada lecturer, and days after the college ordered lackadaisical action against him, the Bengaluru campus has erupted with angry protests. In the midst of this, at least 10 more students have filed complaints against at least six other male faculty members for sexually harassing them.
In March 2016, a third-year arts student had filed a complaint with the college principal alleging that a Kannada lecturer, Ramalingappa T Beguru, had sexually harassed her during the college fest.
She mentioned in the complaint that the lecturer allegedly kissed her after asking her to keep her bag in his cabin.
The inquiry by the internal committee though said that he had ‘pulled her hand’. As the case reached the collegiate education department, the authorities, on Friday, issued transfer orders to the faculty member to a college at Jewargi.
Angry with the insufficient action, over 600 students from the college protested on Friday, forcing the college to suspend Ramalingappa. Another faculty member, Kumar, was also suspended, reportedly for ‘spreading the news of Ramalingappa’s suspension’ in the campus.
By Monday though, the issue became much more serious. Ten more students of Maharani college filed complaints of sexual harassment against at least six faculty members.
The new complaints were submitted to the collegiate commissioner. “A committee headed by an IAS officer will probe the allegations. Each complaint will be considered individually and a report will be submitted to the college authorities,” said Dr Ajay Nagabhushan, Commissioner of State Department of Collegiate Education.
He, however, refused to divulge the names of the six faculty members.
As the complaints poured in, the Expert Committee on Preventing Sexual Violence against Women and Children headed by VS Ugrappa visited the college on Monday evening.
“Students have accused six faculty members of sexual harassment. They claim that these faculty members are trying to spoil the environment in the college. The institute’s internal committee has been asked to look into all the allegations,” Ugrappa added.
A twenty-four-hour deadline has been fixed for the college management to constitute a committee, keeping in mind the Vishaka guidelines, Ugrappa said. The committee will have 15 days’ time to probe the sexual harassment complaints.
The Ugrappa committee has also asked the police to take up the issue immediately and begin a probe, but none of the students who have alleged sexual harassment have filed complaints with the police. The college administration hasn’t filed a police complaint either.
“One of the victims, who appeared before the committee and narrated her version said that she did not want to file a complaint with the police although the committee members requested her to do so. After speaking with Police Commissioner Praveen Sood, he told me to at least send the girl to record her statement. The girl refused again,” Ugrappa said.
“The police have requested the principal to file a complaint or share details so that action could be taken. However, there is no response yet from the college,” a senior police official said.
The officer said that although the police discussed the issue with the principal, their efforts bore no fruits.
The discussion on Monday also brought to light the issue of safety at the college hostel. Reportedly, a person entered the college hostel at night, wore the girls’ undergarments that were hanging out to dry and peeped into the girls’ rooms through the windows.
The college management told the police that he had entered the hostel many times. The college handed over CCTV footage, which shows a nude person jumping the wall of the hostel, nabbing the underwear of the women and wearing it. At some point, he gets chased out by the security guard.
The college staff told Ugrappa that this person was working with the Bangalore Turf Club, but was sacked after the incident came to light.