“I dreaded attending lectures because he touches me inappropriately,” 23-year-old Sneha* wrote in a complaint in which she had the horror she had to allegedly suffer at the hands of her lecturer for almost a year now.
Sneha, a second-year student at a college under Mangalore University, alleges that for almost a year now, Associate Professor Dr Umesh Nayak (Library Science) has been sexually harassing her and several other students in her batch.
On November 17, 2017, several students wrote a letter to the Mangalore University Vice-Chancellor Kishore Kumar CK and Registrar BS Nagendra Prakash, alleging that Dr Umesh Nayak had been sexually harassing the students in the class. (A copy of the letter is with TNM)
However, the students allege that no action has been taken ever since the complaint was registered and that the professor continues to harass them.
“It was the way he looked at the girls in our class. Initially, I was very uncomfortable by the way he looked at me. It was like he was checking every part of my body. I did not share this with anyone at first, but later, when I shared it with my classmates, I realised that they too feel the same way,” Sneha recounts.
Sneha’s batchmate Ankita* says that she too felt extremely uncomfortable with the way Dr Umesh Nayak looked at her.
“Initially it was just looking at us in a way that made us uncomfortable. Later, he began touching the women in our batch under the pretext of teaching us how to figure out a problem in the computer lab. He would slide his hand up my arm and once he touched my thigh inappropriately,” Sneha alleges.
Just like Sneha, several others too allege that they were troubled by Dr Umesh’s behavior.
“When none of us responded to his inappropriate behaviour, he began doing other things. He would call me and the other women to his cabin under the pretext of discussing our dissertation and again end up doing inappropriate things,” Sneha claims.
Finally, on November 17, 2017, Sneha and seven other women filed a complaint with SPARSH (Sensitization, Prevention & Redress of Sexual Harassment) Committee of the University and also submitted copies of the complaint to the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar.
Sneha says that after the complaint was registered, Dr Umesh allegedly threatened to not give them good grades.
“When he found out that a complaint was filed, he threatened to reduce our marks so that we would not get good grades. He also said that he would file a counter complaint against us and say that the only reason we had registered the sexual harassment complaint was because we were against him as he is a member of the Scheduled Tribe. He said that his complaint would override ours,” Sneha added.
Dr Umesh Nayak, however, denied the allegations and says that the case was filed against him in an attempt to foil his reputation.
“I have been teaching in Mangalore University for 15 years and in my term as a professor, I have never misbehaved with any student. I am a father and I too have a daughter. I would never imagine to cause another girl such harm. This complaint has been filed against me because I belong to the ST category. The students who filed the complaint were the ones who had failed the course I teach. They have colluded with other lecturers who do not want me in the college and filed a false complaint against me. I have not done anything wrong,” DR Umesh told TNM.
Speaking to TNM, Vice-Chancellor of Mangalore University, Kishore Kumar said that the ICC is looking into the complaint. “We will take further action based on the findings of the ICC. Currently, Dr Umesh is still serving as a lecturer in the university,” Kishore Kumar added.
“In January this year, the High Court issued a stay order on the investigation being conducted by the college committee after Dr Umesh approached the court. The problem was that the ICC was modelled on the 2013 guidelines of the UGC. This was called the SPARSH committee. Now that the stay was brought in, the University has formed a new ICC and the committee is probing the matter,” a source in the University’s administration revealed.