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.
Sponsored Content  BY 

In a first, some of the finest Indian theatre can now be seen on your screen

A new cinematic production brings to life thought-provoking plays as digital video.

Though we are a country besotted with cinema, theatre remains an original source of provocative stories, great actors, and the many deeply rooted traditions of the dramatic arts across India. CinePlay is a new, ambitious experiment to bring the two forms together.

These plays, ‘filmed’ as digital video, span classic drama genre as well as more experimental dark comedy and are available on Hotstar premium, as part of Hotstar’s Originals bouquet. “We love breaking norms. And CinePlay is an example of us serving our consumer’s multi-dimensional personality and trusting them to enjoy better stories, those that not only entertain but also tease the mind”, says Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar.

The first collection of CinePlays feature stories from leading playwrights, like Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani, Badal Sircar amongst others and directed by film directors like Santosh Sivan and Nagesh Kukunoor. They also star some of the most prolific names of the film and theatre world like Nandita Das, Shreyas Talpade, Saurabh Shukla, Mohan Agashe and Lillete Dubey.

The idea was conceptualised by Subodh Maskara and Nandita Das, the actor and director who had early experience with street theatre. “The conversation began with Subodh and me thinking how can we make theatre accessible to a lot more people” says Nandita Das. The philosophy is that ‘filmed’ theatre is a new form, not a replacement, and has the potential to reach millions instead of thousands of people. Hotstar takes the reach of these plays to theatre lovers across the country and also to newer audiences who may never have had access to quality theatre.

“CinePlay is merging the language of theatre and the language of cinema to create a third unique language” says Subodh. The technique for ‘filming’ plays has evolved after many iterations. Each play is shot over several days in a studio with multiple takes, and many angles just like cinema. Cinematic techniques such as light and sound effects are also used to enhance the drama. Since it combines the intimacy of theatre with the format of cinema, actors and directors have also had to adapt. “It was quite intimidating. Suddenly you have to take something that already exists, put some more creativity into it, some more of your own style, your own vision and not lose the essence” says Ritesh Menon who directed ‘Between the Lines’. Written by Nandita Das, the play is set in contemporary urban India with a lawyer couple as its protagonists. The couple ends up arguing on opposite sides of a criminal trial and the play delves into the tension it brings to their personal and professional lives.

Play

The actors too adapted their performance from the demands of the theatre to the requirements of a studio. While in the theatre, performers have to project their voice to reach a thousand odd members in the live audience, they now had the flexibility of being more understated. Namit Das, a popular television actor, who acts in the CinePlay ‘Bombay Talkies’ says, “It’s actually a film but yet we keep the characteristics of the play alive. For the camera, I can say, I need to tone down a lot.” Vickram Kapadia’s ‘Bombay Talkies’ takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as seven personal stories unravel through powerful monologues, touching poignant themes such as child abuse, ridicule from a spouse, sacrifice, disillusionment and regret.

The new format also brought many new opportunities. In the play “Sometimes”, a dark comedy about three stressful days in a young urban professional’s life, the entire stage was designed to resemble a clock. The director Akarsh Khurana, was able to effectively recreate the same effect with light and sound design, and enhance it for on-screen viewers. In another comedy “The Job”, presented earlier in theatre as “The Interview”, viewers get to intimately observe, as the camera zooms in, the sinister expressions of the interviewers of a young man interviewing for a coveted job.

Besides the advantages of cinematic techniques, many of the artists also believe it will add to the longevity of plays and breathe new life into theatre as a medium. Adhir Bhat, the writer of ‘Sometimes’ says, “You make something and do a certain amount of shows and after that it phases out, but with this it can remain there.”

This should be welcome news, even for traditionalists, because unlike mainstream media, theatre speaks in and for alternative voices. Many of the plays in the collection are by Vijay Tendulkar, the man whose ability to speak truth to power and society is something a whole generation of Indians have not had a chance to experience. That alone should be reason enough to cheer for the whole project.

Play

Hotstar, India’s largest premium streaming platform, stands out with its Originals bouquet bringing completely new formats and stories, such as these plays, to its viewers. Twenty timeless stories from theatre will be available to its subscribers. Five CinePlays, “Between the lines”, “The Job”, “Sometimes”, “Bombay Talkies” and “Typecast”, are already available and a new one will release every week starting March. To watch these on Hotstar Premium, click here.

This article was produced on behalf of Hotstar by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.