The associate professor accused her colleagues of ganging up to target her, as one man has been arrested based on her complaint to the police.

Its a witch hunt Dalit prof claims rampant sexual harassment in NIRD
news Sexual Harassment Wednesday, June 06, 2018 - 12:36

An assistant professor at the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, has been arrested by the police for allegedly sexually harassing a Dalit associate professor in the institute. Satya Ranjan Mahakul has been booked for ‘outraging the modesty’ of his senior, and also under relevant provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. And even as the man is being backed by the institute, which has hit out at the complainant instead, the woman survivor says that a witch-hunt has been launched against her – and that the incident she complained about is not isolated, but part of the rampant sexual harassment in the NIRD campus. 

Mincing no words, the associate professor tells TNM that sexual harassment is rampant in the institute. Mahakul’s case, she says, dates back to January 25 this year, when she rejected his research proposal on the grounds that it was heavily plagiarised.

“He called me a ‘Chamaar’ (a caste name used as a slur) and said that he wouldn’t even touch my community and yelled at me that I am here because of reservations. In the confrontation, my chunni fell. He almost forced himself on me,” she alleges.

In February, she approached the Internal Complaints Committee of the institute and filed a complaint against Mahakul. However, she alleged that the committee claimed that she had made a ‘false complaint’; the professor then decided to approach the police on April 19. Mahakul was then arrested.

Even as the institute has put its weight behind Mahakul, the survivor says the institute is an unsafe workplace for women.

‘NIRD is an unsafe workplace’

“The entire institute is like that… the work atmosphere is not safe for women at all. Men spread malicious rumours about woman colleagues’ conduct if she gets a good project, or if the Director General entrusts them with a bigger responsibility. Several women have suffered this and are scared of volunteering for a project even if they are good at it, fearing these rumours,” she alleges.

Accusing two of her male colleagues, she says, “In 2015 I filed a complaint with the ICC against these two sexual harassers, after I couldn’t take their harassment. Despite the deposition of 60 women who came forward and spoke about the sexual harassment of these two men, the ICC kept delaying their case, and later gave a token punishment of censure, which is not justice at all.”

“Irked by this, they have been vying for an opportunity to harass me again. I think the Director General, the two sexual offenders, and Mahakul ganged up against me,” she says.

‘Ineffective ICC, character assassination of complainant’

The ICC in the institute, she says, has been ineffective at best, and routinely unethical. Accusing the ICC of failing to conceal her identity when she filed a complaint, the professor says, “When I filed the complaint, the entire institute knew that I had filed a complaint against the two sexual harassers. They also came to know what all happened in the meeting. This is against the principles of ICC, which protects the victim.”

NIRD faculty president Dr Prakash Rao concurs with the allegation of the ICC being ineffective. He says that despite two consecutive cases against the male faculty, the ICC gave them minimal punishment, with censures on both the occasions.

Prakash informs that the attack on the survivor happened in his chamber, and because he is supporting her, they are insinuating that he has an affair with her.

“I witnessed the entire incident. I don’t have anything against the accused. I told them what I saw. This vicious campaign is being done by some miscreants who dislike the complainant,” he says.

Administration’s counter

Though the Director General of the Institute Dr W R Reddy remained incommunicado, the de facto DG, Registrar Franklin Lalthinkhuma on Tuesday issued a press release stating that they received a complaint of sexual harassment against Dr Satya Ranjan Mahakul in the first week of February. However, after following due procedure, they found the complaint to be false. The institute said that they would be taking disciplinary action against the woman professor for filing a ‘false complaint.’

The institute further condemned the arrest of Mahakul. The press release read, “According to the latest directions of the Supreme Court regarding the misuse of provisions of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act 1989, no arrest may be affected if an accused person is a public servant, without written permission from the appointing authority. The police authorities have to obtain the written permission of the Appointing Authority before making an arrest. In this present case, police called Mr Mahakul for recording his statement but later on took him into custody without seeking the written permission from the authorities of the institute.”


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