The Kalakshetra Foundation, an arts and culture academy in Chennai, announced on Thursday that its Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts will remain shut till April 6 amid student protests demanding action against four male faculty members accused of sexual abuse, reported the Hindustan Times.
In an order issued on Thursday evening, the principal of the institution directed students to vacate the campus. However, they refused to budge till action is taken on the allegations.
Later in the day, Revathi Ramachandran, the academy director, allowed the students to stay at the hostel, reported The Times of India. After she promised action against the accused men, the students said they will continue to hold protests till the academy gives the assurance in writing.
The matter came to prominence last week after the academy did not take action on complaints against Hari Padman, one of the accused men, who is scheduled to perform a dance drama on Friday. The three other faculty members accused of sexual harassment are Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan and Sreenath, according to The News Minute.
On March 19, the academy had said that its Internal Complaints Committee had conducted an investigation but found no truth in the complaints. On the basis of the statement, the National Commission for Women decided to close the complaint, but three days later tweeted that it has directed the police to file a first information report against the accused men as well as Ramachandran for shielding the perpetrators.
The police started their investigation on March 20, according to the Hindustan Times.
The protest began on Thursday morning after students walked away from a prayer meeting as Padman, a Bharatnatyam teacher, entered the premises. The students boycotted the meeting and urged the administration to suspend Padman and other alleged harassers.
Two women have told The News Minute about their experiences and named Padman as their abuser. Six Kalakshetra staff members also told the news website that the environment of the academy was toxic.
Meanwhile, the students have written to the Union Ministry of Culture, under which Kalaksehtra functions, alleging sexual and verbal abuse, reported ANI. They have also demanded that the Internal Complaints Committee be reconstituted with a students’ representative.
On Wednesday, National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma had met the protesting students and faculty.
“We told her how we were sexually harassed by some faculty members,” an undergraduate student told The Times of India. “Some men doing their post-graduation have complained too. We have also given written complaints.”
Allegations of sexual abuse in the institute had first come to light in December after a former director of Kalakshetra wrote on Facebook about a teacher at the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts “who had been harassing and molesting students for over a decade”.
The Facebook post was later deleted but it prompted an intense discussion on social media. CAREspaces, an NGO that says it is “motivated by the potential for Indian performing arts spaces to improve their ethical practices”, had issued a statement signed by just over 700 persons, calling on Kalakshetra to address the allegations.