Kerala SN college professor found guilty of sexual harassment

Several students of SN College Chempazhanthy in Thiruvananthapuram had complained against an assistant professor for sexual harassment in August 2021.
Students protest in a college in Kerala
Students protest in a college in Kerala
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The Directorate of Collegiate Education has found a teacher at SN College Chempazhathy in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram accused of sexual harassment by multiple students guilty. The directorate found T Abhilash guilty of sending inappropriate messages including sexual innuendos to women students, making video calls to them during odd hours, and also trying to talk to them for long hours.

The enquiry of the Directorate has been accessed by one of the complainant students through the Right to Information Act. A copy of the report is with TNM.

In August 2021, six female students of the college complained to the college principal against T Abhilash, an Assistant Professor of the Political Science Department of the college. The students have been in a long fight as the college management has not taken any action against the teacher, and in November 2021, the college even took action against five teachers including Manu Remakant who have been supportive of the students. 

The Directorate of College Education in its report has found the complaints of the students as true."Abhilash sent messages and made calls on Whatsapp to the students. The students were not comfortable because he unnecessarily dragged the phone conservations. It can't be justified that he continued sending inappropriate emojis to the students despite one of the students asking him not to do so," the report reads. 

Abhilash had claimed that he made the calls by mistake, after the students complained. He gave the same statement to the Directorate enquiry committee team too.  The report, however, says that his claim can not be accepted as he made calls to more than one student. 

The college authorities allegedly didn't act on the complaints initially which forced the students to lodge a complaint with Governor Ariff Mohammed Khan in August. This initiated a police investigation into the complaints and a First Information Report was filed at the Peroorkada police station.

The college authorities formed an Internal Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (PoSH) Act in October last year. However, the IC also allegedly acted in favour of the teacher. In the IC meetings, the students were allegedly questioned for hours and humiliated.

The College Directorate probe committee has also taken the statement of Saritha SR, head of the History Department of the college, who is accused of calling a relative of one of the complainants to make the latter withdraw the complaint. She has given a statement to the committee that she wasn't aware of the complaint. The committee has slammed her saying her statement is not reliable. Amjith, physical education teacher of the college has also been pulled up by the committee for accusing the students of filing fake complaints. The commitee report has said that it has been an unpardonable mistake on Amjith's part, considering the post he holds.

Swapna Gopinath, a former faculty of the college, led an online Gender Sensitisation session for students  in which she spoke about the PoSH Act (The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013) and the IC under it. This was the catalyst for the students to come out with the complaint against Abhilash. Swapna took the class during a session on Veyilpookkal, a platform launched by former faculty of the college Manu Remakant for online interaction with students and teachers on various subjects. Abhilash, since the beginning, has maintained that Manu Remakant had personal grudge against him which led to the complaints which he claimed were false. The probe committee has also heard Manu Remakant.

"It was quite natural that Veyilpookal was formed and gender sensitisation was discussed in its session. It's not fair to make allegations like that. Giving a gender sensitisation has been a responsible move. The allegation of Abhilash, that the students were influenced through the session to file a complaint can't be accepted," the report further reads. It also said the college authorities’ act of not giving a conduct certificate has put the complainants  under mental pressure.

The report concluded saying that it's clear that the circumstances led to the students to lodge the complaint was Abhilash’s repeated misconduct despite the students telling him no. "This has made Abhilash continue in the college and to mingle with the students. This may hinder the students' chances of getting natural justice,” the committee report further said. 

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