Speaking to TNM, the survivor said that when she was hospitalised post her suicide attempt, the accused Sunilkumar came there and threatened her not to tell anyone about it.

The school of drama and fine arts University of Calicut
news Harassment Monday, February 28, 2022 - 12:56

A first year undergraduate student at the School of Drama and Fine Arts in Thrissur has accused the institute’s dean, S Sunilkumar, of rape. The Thrissur West police have filed an FIR against Sunilkumar under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The student was allegedly raped by Sunilkumar when she was staying at his residence, where Sunilkumar’s partner was also present, owing to difficulties going home due to the pandemic. When the student first raised allegations of misconduct against Sunilkumar and another faculty member, at least 55 students from the Bachelor of Theatre Arts course started protesting in the campus. The protest has been going on since February 24.

Speaking to TNM, the complainant said that the dean abused his power when she had to stay at his residence when there were no regular classes at the start of this year, as she couldn’t travel to her hometown. “Sunilkumar lives with his partner, who is a teacher at a different institute and has also interacted with me. He was a mentor to me in the institute, and since hostel facilities were unavailable at this time, I stayed with the couple,” she said. During this period, Sunilkumar started making sexual advances towards the student when his partner was not around, the complainant said, and he raped her on January 21.

The distressed student then left the residence and confided some parts of what had transpired with her friends. “In the past, he has made repeated drunken calls to me and spoke to me with sexual undertones. He had apologised to me at that point,” she said. “I did not disclose the rape to anyone because I was scared. I would be the one who will be blamed. However, upon seeing him again in the college and when he tried to have a conversation with me, I had a severe panic attack,” she said.

The student then attempted suicide and was hospitalised. Her alleged predator however landed up at the hospital while she was recovering. “Sunilkumar came to the hospital and things got worse. When I tried to talk about the incidents with my friends, he started telling them that I was ‘not mentally stable’ and that is the reason I am talking like this,” she told TNM.

“He also threatened me not to tell this to anyone, or else he would die of suicide. His partner also made a phone call and asked me to come to their house, as she was aware of his behaviour. She must have been scared that I would make it public,” she added.

The survivor had initially filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Sunilkumar along with another teacher called Raja Variar, and later gave a second complaint alleging rape by Sunilkumar. The police have filed a second FIR in the case under section 376 (punishment for rape) against Sunilkumar. So far, the accused have not been arrested. TNM tried reaching out to Sunilkumar for his comments on the rape allegations; he was unreachable.

In the first complaint, the student had accused Sunilkumar and another teacher, Raja Variar, of sexual harassment. Raja Variar allegedly hit her hand during a class. He is a guest faculty from Calicut University. She said that the lecturer seemed irked by the fact that a female student was responding in the class. “Halfway through the class, he rapped me on the hand and asked if it was painful. When I questioned why he beat me, he said that he was teaching about ‘touch sensation’,” she said, adding that she had raised verbal complaints about this to all faculty members, but no action was taken against him. The complainant further said that she came to know that the two male teachers have discussed this incident of Raja Varier hitting her hand while sharing alcohol. On the basis of this complaint, both Sunilkumar and Raja Variar have been booked under section 354 and 354A of the IPC (sexual harassment charges).

Speaking to TNM, Raja Variar said that he was “just conducting a class on five senses” and rapped on her wrists to “make a demonstration”. “I’m an examiner with 30 years of experience, and when I went to the college for one such examination, I was asked to take a class for a batch of 16 to 17 freshers when this happened. I was not aware of such a complaint even when I went there a month ago. Now, I have not been informed of this by the police. However, my lawyer is taking care of it,” he told TNM.

The student’s lawyer, Asha Unnithan told TNM that the student was under undue influence to provide consent to the dean. “The police refused to file a second FIR for rape, we had to push them to do it. They questioned the complainant about why she hadn’t disclosed the rape earlier, without considering the fact that there is a huge power differential between the accused and the survivor. The survivor broke down with the questioning of the police,” she said.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.   

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Kerala

Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Telangana

State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to inidviduals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those  undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726 

Click here for working helplines across India.

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