The #MeToo movement has outed many alleged sexual harassers and predators in various fields including films, advertising and media. However, the social sector has remained largely unaffected (with the exception of Stalin K Padma of Video Volunteers) until multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misogyny emerged against officials in Teach for India (TFI).
After webcomic artist and activist Rachita Taneja posted screenshots of women alleging they were sexually harassed by members of the organisation, TFI, on Monday, sent three of its employees on leave.
Several women interns, as well as former and current fellows, have accused TFI managers of inappropriate touching, making sexually coloured remarks as well as workplace harassment. One woman, Poulomi Roy, a graduate of Symbiosis Centre for Media and Mass Communication (SCMC), Pune, recounted how she was allegedly sexually harassed by Kapil Dawda, who was then a fellow at TFI. He is the Bengaluru city director for TFI now.
She accused Kapil of sexually and mentally harassing her for a month when she interning at TFI in 2014. “He would touch me inappropriately during class. He (would) dig his elbow into my chest while showing me something on his laptop. He would come close enough to place his thigh between my legs when we were sitting,” Poulomi wrote in an account made public by Rachita.
She also accused him of threatening her with a bad report and ultimately writing a report that contained “blatant lies” to a point where SCMC called her for a disciplinary hearing.
Poulomi has also named Rama Gowalkar and Snehal Galande of SCMC and alleged that they did not handle her official complaint about what she faced in TFI, which resulted in the college ultimately cancelling her internship.
Another Twitter user, Sakshi Shrivastava replied to Rachita’s tweet, which told Poulomi’s story, and said that she too had faced “relentless harassment” from the principal of a partner school of TFI while she worked there. “Instead of taking action against him, they made me quit the fellowship,” Sakshi said.
Kapil, meanwhile, has denied the allegations made against him but confirmed that he was one of the employees sent on leave by TFI. “I unequivocally deny all allegations made against me. I am on a temporary leave of absence while the organisation’s internal complaints committee is investigating the matter. I intend to fully cooperate with the process. I am also independently considering legal recourse. I will not be able to comment further at this time,” he told Scroll.in.
On October 14, Rachita posted another story of a survivor from Pune who alleged that she and some other fellows were being mentally and emotionally harassed by a former senior program manager in Pune for two years now.
This man was later revealed to be Sachin Paranjape, who now works at Central Square Foundation.
A message to @shaheenmistri and @TeachForIndia - if you don't respond to women and survivors, more stories will keep dropping. The organisation seems toxic and I can't believe the senior management has been getting away with this for so long #MeToo #TimesUp pic.twitter.com/fPo2vmIrvO— Rachita (@visualfumble) October 14, 2018
I have recieved now two seperate complaints of sexual harassment and assault from @TeachForIndia's Sachin Paranjape. These two survivors wish to remain anonymous. Teach For India - #TimesUp— Rachita (@visualfumble) October 13, 2018
If you have a story about Sachin, please DM me #MeToo https://t.co/EXrWdQGUiM
This survivor told Firstpost that Sachin would ask her inappropriate questions, touch her without her consent and would call her at odd hours when he used to work in TFI. She also alleged that he compelled her to be alone with him in a room where he verbally harassed her. The woman did not speak with the HR because he said he was Sachin’s best friend.
Neither Sachin nor Central Square Foundation responded to media houses for comment.
Apart from Kapil, another TFI employee was sent on leave. According to reports, it is Abhimanyu Sarkar, Pune city director for the organisation. One current TFI employee has accused Abhimanyu of making sexist comments. Another former TFI fellow has alleged women have said that Abhimanyu has been making them “uncomfortable” for seven years now.
The third employee TFI has sent on leave has not been identified.
TFI founder Shaheen Mistri has said that the organisation is looking into the allegations. “When general issues arise that do not constitute gross misconduct we err on the side of giving people chances. This is a stance we want to introspect on given some of what we understood seems to be graver in substance then anything we were aware of,” she told Scroll.in.
Update: Kapil Dawda was cleared of the sexual harassment charges after an inquiry by an internal Grievance Redressal Committee at TFI. He was reinstated to his postition as the City Director, Bengaluru on December 24, 2018.