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Harassment charges

IPCC chair RK Pachauri cancels trip to Nairobi after second woman complains of sexual harassment

Fresh allegations claim Pachauri's advances were commonplace.

The emergence of a second voice alleging sexual harassment by renowned Indian environmental researcher RK Pachauri appears to have prompted him to cancel a visit to Nairobi on Sunday, where he was to chair a plenary session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A complaint filed against Pachauri, who is chairman of the IPCC which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, prompted the filing of a First Information Report charging him with having sexually harassed a female colleague at The Energy and Resources Institute, of which he is director general.

Pachauri has so far denied all charges and claims that the alleged SMSs and emails that constituted sexual harassment are the result of a hacked computer and cellphone.

The FIR filed by Delhi Police charges the 74-year-old scientist with having sexually harassed and stalked a 29-year-old woman who was working at TERI. The complainant had alleged that Pachauri made unwanted physical advances, as well as approached her over SMS, WhatsApp and emails, and continued to do so even after she asked for a halt. The complainant had also filed an internal complaint at TERI regarding the matter.

In response, Pachauri had claimed that his computer and phone had been hacked. He had also initially filed an injunction against the Economic Times, which first reported the matter, although this was later modified to allow press to cover the case. Pachauri's spokesperson had no comment regarding the new allegations, although he has put out a statement saying the IPCC chair will not be travelling to Nairobi for the plenary session this week.
"The Chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra K. Pachauri, PhD, has informed the IPCC that he will be unable to chair the plenary session of the IPCC in Nairobi next week because of issues demanding his attention in India," Pachauri's spokesperson said in a statement. "Dr Pachauri is committed to provide all assistance and cooperation to the authorities in their ongoing investigations."

On Saturday, lawyer and activist Vrinda Grover told the media that a second woman had been inspired by the initial complainant to reveal her own experience of Pachauri’s alleged sexual harassment, which she claims had happened to many other women at TERI. Grover put out a statement written by the woman, who has at the moment chosen to remain anonymous.
"I and many other female colleagues and friends who have worked at the same organisation as the complainant at/in different points of time and capacities during the last ten years have either been through similar harassment at his hands or have known someone who did," the woman, who claims to have worked at TERI in 2005, wrote in her statement.

The statement speaks of Pachauri's behavior around female colleagues, in a manner similar to the complaints noted by the woman who first came out and has filed the FIR. "The comments about nicknames, and SMSs, and his behaviour is exactly what my complainant has also mentioned," said Prashant Mendiratta, the lawyer representing the first woman who complained.

The woman who wrote the new statement also claims to have brought up the matter with the second in command at TERI, only to be rebuffed.

"Having mustered some courage, I complained to the then administrative head, essentially the side-kick to Big Boss. Side-kick refused to believe me, saying that I may have misread his warmth, that such things had never been reported, requested me to end the matter there and started to show me a meditative, self-help magazine that he subscribed to," she wrote in the statement.

The full text of the unedited statement appears below:
A sexual harasser then ten years back, a sexual harasser today. He did it to me and others then. He has done it to her and possibly others, now.

I and many other female colleagues and friends who have worked at the same organisation as the complainant at/in different points of time and capacities during the last ten years have either been through similar harassment at his hands or have known someone who did.

Now that the anonymous but intrepid complainant has finally belled the cat with her FIR, it has unleashed an outpouring of posts saying “long overdue” on Facebook and much more in private circles.

His physical advances and sexual innuendoes and acts, often reduced to as “inappropriate behaviour”, have been common knowledge and corridor gossip.

Of the most common and public sight of such behaviour by him that many of us vividly recall was performed on the floor where his office is located and is home to a manicured roof-top garden and badminton court. These evening sessions would often draw to a close with high-tea, and many a times with him lifting a female employee as if they were little girls. Some would run away seeing him approach them. A few coyly obliged. Some cringed, or muttered cuss words under their breath.

Many of us have heard him talk about how he could run, play cricket and score run seven in his ripe age: the sub-textual allusion was his physical strength or, really, virility.

Privately, many of us had undergone one, some or all of this experience/s: telephone calls at personal mobile number during non-office hours and holidays; inquiries about personal life with “boyfriend”, “husband”; invitations for wine and dinners, and hand holding, hugs or kisses. Sometimes, he would call me by a “nickname”, a derivative of my official name.

Once, he called me to his room to discuss some work but picked up a coffee-table book. He thumbed the pages of what was an architectural design catalogue with designs of swimming pools and gardens. I was still waiting for where he was going with it. What followed was startling: he promised to get me a certain Foundation’s pool membership if I would care to join him for swims on the weekends.

I remember suggesting to some colleagues, including the women who comprised the H.R. team, about doing a joint petition, an internal complaint.  Seeing that the women at H.R. were themselves subjected to such harassment did not instill much confidence in the exercise but it would at least go on record....

Having mustered some courage, I complained to the then administrative head, essentially the side-kick to Big Boss. Side-kick refused to believe me, saying that I may have misread his warmth, that such things had never been reported, requested me to end the matter there and started to show me a meditative, self-help magazine that he subscribed to.

Around that time, I gained admission at a university abroad.Since I quit the organisation, I was relieved that this was the end of this ugly episode.

Not quite. When he saw my resignation letter, he threatened: “From the airport to the University you are headed to, I have friends at every step. Let’s see if you manage to leave the country.”

All this happened ten years back. So why am I speaking up now?  I had little courage then, but it feels like I have more now...

Please read this public testimony as my attempt to reach out to you, anonymous complainant, as well as all women who may have at some point or the other been subjected to similar, or less or more harassment by him.

In solidarity.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HDFC Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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