Former Kalakshetra prof Sheejith Krishna arrested for sexually assaulting ex students

According to the police, the complainants studied in Kalakshetra between 1995 and 2007 when they were sexually assaulted multiple times by Sheejith.
Sheejith Krishna
Sheejith KrishnaFacebook/Sheejith Krishna's Sahrdaya Foundation
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Former professor of Chennai’s Kalakshetra Foundation, Sheejith Krishna (51), was arrested by the Neelankarai all women police on Monday, April 22, on charges of sexual assault. Sources in the police told TNM that the arrest was based on the complaint of two former students of Kalakshetra. 

According to the police, the complainants studied in Kalakshetra between 1995 and 2007 when they were sexually assaulted multiple times by Sheejith. Police sources also said that one of the women moved the Madras High Court in December 2023, and her complaint was taken up based on the court’s direction, and an investigation was conducted before the arrest was made. The woman approached the Madras HC in December 2023, following which Justice G Jayachandran directed the police to look into the complaint while maintaining confidentiality.

Sheejith Krishna is now an independent dancer and choreographer, and one of the founders of the Sahrdaya Foundation, described as a “non-profit organization dedicated to arts education, performance, and community outreach and offering a holistic curriculum for dance, music, and other allied forms to students ages six and above” on the institution’s website. He has been booked under Section 376 (Punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and taken into police custody. 

The Kalakshetra Foundation is a Union government-funded institution and has been declared an institute of national importance. Earlier last year, several students raised allegations against the institute for propagating a toxic culture, and many allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against senior faculty Hari Padman and three members of the repertory — Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath. In March 2023, the students staged a night-long protest demanding action, following which Hari Padman was arrested in April by the Adyar All Women’s Police Station (AWPS). However, no legal action has been taken so far against the other three accused.

During the course of the protests, two survivors and six staff members spoke to TNM in March 2023 and explained how the atmosphere at the Kalakshetra campus was toxic. The survivors also said that Hari Padman would invite them to his residence within the campus, and denying it would have repercussions.

Subsequently, an independent inquiry committee headed by retired judge Justice K Kannan was set up by Chairman of the Kalakshetra Foundation S Ramadorai to look into the allegations. The committee, which also comprised of former Tamil Nadu Director General of Police (DGP) Letika Saran, and Dr Shobha Varthaman, found Hari Padman guilty of sexual misconduct and suggested that the students who complained of sexual misbehaviour by Sanjith Lal, Saikrishna, and Srinath, be provided with legal assistance to file police complaints.

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