A 36-year-old English professor at the St Thomas College of Arts and Science in Chennai’s Koyambedu was arrested by the city police on Wednesday, December 1 on charges of sexually harassing a female student through WhatsApp messages. According to a police statement released on Wednesday, C Thamizhselvan had allegedly been sending messages with sexual content to a female student of the college.
But the arrest would not have happened if not for a protest organised by the students of the college.
The students of the college had filed a complaint about the professor with the college management on Tuesday, November 30, to which the management claimed that the professor had already been terminated. Unhappy over the college’s decision not to approach the police, students started a protest the same day. While nearly 150 students began a sit-in protest demanding legal action, the protest grew stronger by Wednesday, December 1, with over 500 college students and members of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) joining the protest. This forced the college management to file a police complaint, sources said.
The college management is said to have allegedly threatened the students not to indulge in protests. “Professors warned us that either they will reduce our internal marks or report to our parents if we protested,” a student told TNM.
A second-year student of the college confirmed to TNM that assistant professor Thamizhselvan had in many instances made sexist and misogynist remarks. The student further said, “There are claims that he sent messages of a sexual nature to female students. Although one female student has come out about her encounter with Thamizhselvan, she told us there are more.”
“The survivor also said that there are possibly two more professors in the college who helped Thamizhselvan. Also, we heard from a professor that he had behaved in a similar manner in his previous workplace,” added the student.
Speaking to TNM on the condition of anonymity, a professor from St Thomas College said that although Thamizhselvan had not exhibited any such behaviour with female staff members, his conduct towards female students was quite known.
“He has been working at St Thomas College for about two years now. We have heard that he had indulged in such behaviour while working in previous colleges in the city,” added the professor.
Meanwhile, urging that an Internal Committee (IC) be set up in the college, Aakash, a student, said, “We have been asking for an IC as mandated under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (PoSH Act) for a long time. During our protests we were told that there is an anti-bullying committee and it also can act as an IC.”
“It is imperative that an IC is formed and that too at earliest so that we do not have to protest to get justice every single time,” Aakash added.
Due to the students’ protest, the college principal Thangavel filed a complaint, after which the K11 CMBT police held an inquiry at the college and arrested Thamizhselvan from his house in Thirumazhisai on Wednesday evening. The police statement said that the accused has been booked under the IT Act and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act.