A day after the Chennai police registered a case against an assistant professor of Kalakshetra, Sri Hari Padman, on complaints of sexual harassment, the male staffer went absconding.
According to police, after registering the case, they were trying to reach the staffer for a preliminary enquiry but he was not available. On Thursday, Hari Padman, with other staff and students, was in Hyderabad to perform at the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) campus in Madhapur.
However, the organisers cancelled their programme after the sexual allegations levelled against him became known.
One of the organisers confirmed to South First that Hari Padman and others had left Hyderabad.
Hari Padman on ‘long leave’
Senior staff member at Kalakshetra also confirmed to South First that Hari Padman did not report to the management after he left Hyderabad.
“Hari Padman, who has reportedly taken a long leave, might be trying for a legal remedy after a complaint was registered against him and he may approach the high court for anticipatory bail,” the staff member said.
When asked about the institution’s action against him, sources in Kalakshetra said that the management had informed the Union Ministry of Culture them about all developments and the FIR against a male staffer.
Meanwhile, a senior police officer said that they will be calling the accused professor for an inquiry. “The Adyar police have formed a special team and are trying to reach him,” he said.
When South First tried to reach Hari Padman, his mobile number was switched off.
Who is Hari Padman?
Hari Padman is a senior faculty at Kalakshetra and is also one of the principal dancers of the Kalakshetra Repertory Company (the performance wing of the institution). He has played key roles in over 18 major productions of Kalakshetra.
The dancer, hailing from Chathannoor in Kollam, Kerala, joined Kalakshetra as a student in 1993 and was inducted as faculty in 2002.
Trained by his parents Padmanabha Pillai and Vasanta, initially, he learnt Bharatanatyam from his uncle and aunt, Kalamandalam Kamala Bai and Mayyanad Sasikumar.
He is also trained in Kathakali under the tutelage of Sadanam Balakrishnan and completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Fine Arts in Bharatanatyam from Bharathidasan University in Tiruchy.
Hari Padman has also worked as a guest lecturer at Hatton National College of Education in Sri Lanka through the Indian High Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs.
Hari’s his wife Divya Hari Padman is also a dancer and teacher at Kalakshetra.
Kalakshetra directors summoned
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu State Women’s Commission had summoned Director Revathi Ramachandran and Deputy Director S. Padmavathy to appear before the commission.
The commission had directed their appearance on 3 April for an enquiry on the allegations levelled against the faculty by the students.
It is to be noted that the commission’s chairperson AS Kumari had visited the institution on Friday and recorded the statements of the students. Nearly 100 students had given their written complaints to her.
Demands must be met: Students
Meanwhile, the students of Kalakshetra, who protested seeking action against the senior faculty, took to social media and said that though they had called off their protest, they will get back to the regular curriculum only after their demands are met.
“The strike is currently on hold. We want to clarify that we are not against the foundation or the administration. They have listened to our demands and, as civil protesters, we have given them time to process our demands, as per their request. We will only go back to our regular curriculum once our demands are met,” they said.
Earlier on Friday, the Kalakshetra students had issued a statement calling for the termination of Hari Padman and another male staff who are alleged to have sexually harassed several students.
In a statement, they said, “We, the students of Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, Kalakshetra Foundation, have decided to stand in solidarity until the accused are immediately dismissed from the institution. They demanded:
- Immediate dismissal of faculty members Hari Padman, Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath.
- Official acknowledgement of the student council and student union as working bodies for the welfare of the students.
- An immediate stop to the verbal and sexual harassment and body shaming and colourism at the Kalakshetra Foundation at present and in the future.
- A change of counsellor at the Kalakshetra Foundation as the student do not have the confidence in the present counsellor.
- Assurance of privacy and basic human rights to the students staying at the Kalakshetra hostel.