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Kalakshetra alum says teacher ‘rebuffed’ him when told he faced sexual harassment by staffer

Ex-student says dismissed Kalakshetra staffer 'stared at him with bad intentions' & sent inappropriate messages. He has written to TN women's panel detailing 'harassment'.

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Chennai: A male student who graduated from the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, Kalakshetra Foundation, last year has alleged that he met with a “rude” response from an institute teacher when he informed them of harassment he had faced as a student on campus.

On Tuesday, the Kalakshetra governing body suspended assistant professor Hari Padman and dismissed three contractual staffers — Sai Krishnan, Sanjith Lal and Sreenath — over allegations of sexual harassment from students of the premier performing arts institution.

Speaking to ThePrint, the former student said he informed a Kalakshetra teacher of his experience last week, while he was in Hyderabad to perform at an event.

“The Kalakshetra repertory was also present there. Since allegations of harassment in the institute had just surfaced, I thought of informing the head of the department of Bharatnatyam, Jyolsana Menon, about the kind of harassment I faced at the hands of Sanjith.”

“When I showed her the messages (between him and Sanjith), she asked me why I was showing them to her,” he said. “When I told her I wanted to bring this to light, she said she didn’t care.”

ThePrint reached Sanjith Lal and Jyolsana Menon via WhatsApp for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. This report will be updated when a response is received.

On Tuesday, the former student also wrote a letter to the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, detailing the alleged harassment he faced. The letter, a copy of which is with ThePrint, also contained screenshots of his purported text conversations with Sanjith Lal.

“He (Lal) always stares (sic) me with bad intentions and tries to puch (sic) me with his back,” read the letter.

One of the screenshots shows a WhatsApp exchange where Lal purportedly initiates the conversation by sending “Hi dear” to the former student. “What happened Anna (brother)? What was the work,” the former student asks Lal, to which the latter replies, “What Anna, which work?”

In another late-night conversation, Lal purportedly asks the former student what he was wearing and whether he was alone in the hostel. “Shorts and T-shirt,” replies the student, followed by a question mark. Lal then purportedly responds to the former student with the salivating tongue emoji.

Asked about this exchange, the former student told ThePrint, “He (Lal) would send these dirty messages late at night. What does that tongue emoticon mean? Why did he want to know what I was wearing?”

He added, “He (Lal) also used to pass inappropriate comments and touch students inappropriately in the green room when we would change our clothes after a performance. He would jokingly say things like ‘daal du kya (should I insert it)’, which would make us really uncomfortable.”

Also Read: ‘100 complaints of sexual, verbal & mental harassment’ at Kalakshetra, TN women’s panel to prosecute staffers

Male students complain of molestation

Four male students wrote to the Kalakshetra internal complaints committee on 22 March, after ThePrint reported on allegations of sexual harassment against staffers at the institute.

Sources in the TN State Commission for Women, too, confirmed to ThePrint that male students had reported incidents of groping to the panel. The commission’s chairperson, A.S. Kumari, had visited the campus Friday to record complaints, following which the director of Kalakshetra was asked to appear before members of the panel in Chennai on 3 April.

The panel submitted its findings in a report to the state chief secretary Monday, along with recommendations such as the need for a grievance redressal cell and legal action against those accused of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, Kalakshetra’s governing body has approved three of the four demands presented by students. These include the dismissal of the campus counsellor, the reconstitution of the internal complaints committee, and the formation of an ‘advisory committee’ to deal with sexual misconduct.

The governing body, in a statement issued Tuesday, requested students to appear for their examinations set to begin on 5 April. 

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: TM Krishna criticises Kalakshetra’s ‘aggressive’ response to sexual harassment complaints, calls it ‘unbecoming’


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