The Governing Board of the Kalakshetra Foundation on Monday, 3 April, accepted the demands of protesting students — including the dismissal of three members of the faculty accused of sexual harassment.
An urgent meeting was convened on Monday morning following the students’ protest and the arrest of assistant professor Hari Padman.
According to sources, the students sent a letter to all board members on Sunday under the advice of a lawyer, detailing the harassment they underwent.
“That’s why the board was forced to acknowledge their grievances and demands,” sources said.
The board members had a detailed discussion on the ongoing protests and what went wrong in managing the students’ affairs.
There was also a discussion on the intervention of the Tamil Nadu government and the State Women’s Commission in the issue, sources said.
South First also learnt that the Union Ministry of Culture wanted the issue to be sorted out soon and gave the green signal to the management to take action.
“The board has resolved to proceed with things legally and decided to terminate three male members of staff — Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath — as they were not under the payroll of the ministry,” a source from inside Kalakshetra told the South First.
“Further, it is decided to take forward the suspension of the assistant professor Hari Padman, as he is a permanent staff member and the proceedings will take time,” added the source.
The board also decided to bar all four members from entering the campus.
Kalakshetra accepts students’ demands
The decision taken in the board meeting was conveyed to the representatives of the students, with some of the parents also present.
Speaking to South First, a student who requested anonymity, said: “The board members called for a meeting with all the students at the auditorium and assured that all the demands will be met.”
The student added: “The students expressed their apprehension of any interference in mark allocation by the senior staff. A few parents also raised the same concerns. There was an assurance from the management that nothing of this sort would happen, and that they wanted a smooth exit from the ongoing issue through a proper redressal system.”
Subsequently, the students sought written assurance from the members and clarified that they would not write the exams unless there was an acceptance in writing.
Earlier, during the protests, the students had demanded an Immediate dismissal of faculty members Hari Padman, Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath, and also an official acknowledgement of the student council and student union as working bodies for the welfare of the students.
The students also sought a change of counsellor at the Kalakshetra Foundation, as they did not have confidence in the current counsellor, and an assurance of privacy and basic human rights to students staying at the Kalakshetra hostel.
Male students allege harassment
Meanwhile, four male students reportedly lodged a complaint to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) alleging harassment and molestation at the hands of Sanjit Lal and Sai Krishnan.
The allegations were severe in nature. The students said these staff members groped them, touched their private parts, and patted them on the buttocks during performances and in class.
The victims submitted electronic evidence against the staff and sought action.
According to sources, two of the complaints were taken for inquiry, pending action.
SWC submits report
Meanwhile, the State Women’s Commission submitted its report to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Irai Anbu on Monday evening.
Sources close to the commission stated that the report affirmed the harassment undergone by the students and also recommended police action against those named by the students.
Earlier in the day, Kalakshetra Director Revathi Ramachandran appeared before the commission’s Chairman AS Kumari, who sought explanations on the allegations against certain members of the faculty.
Insisting on a safe environment for the students, Kumari also sought the 10-year records of the ICC and insisted on establishing a common grievance redressal system apart from it.
It is to be noted that the State Women’s Commission also sought the barring of Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath from entering the Kalakshetra premises.
On 31 March, when Kumari visited Kalakshetra, at least 17 students deposed in private before her on the harassment they allegedly faced from the senior faculty members at the institution.
Nearly 100 students had reportedly given written complaints about various kinds of harassment they faced at the institution. Kumari also had a video call interaction with five of the students who went to Hyderabad on Friday for a performance
Hari Padman in judicial custody
Hari Padman, the assistant professor who was booked under Sections 354A (sexual harassment) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 (the penalty for harassment of woman) of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, was arrested and taken to enquiry on Monday morning.
An officer from the interrogation team told South First that the assistant professor had cooperated well during the inquiry.
“He denied all the accusations against him and stated that there was a conspiracy to remove him from the institution. He said that it was a normal thing for a dancer to have physical touch with the co-dancers, and there was nothing intentional. He said there was nothing beyond the relationship of ‘guru and student’ he had with his students,” said the officer.
After the preliminary investigation, Padman was taken to a government hospital for a regular health check-up. He was then produced before the Saidapet Magistrate 18 Court under heavy police security.
Admitting the case, Magistrate Subramaniam remanded Padman to judicial custody till 13 April. Following this, he was taken to Puzhal Central Prison.