The Chennai Police on Monday arrested an assistant professor of the Kalakshetra Foundation’s Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts based on a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former student of the institution, The News Minute reported.
On March 31, Hari Padman was booked under Sections 354A (sexual harassment), 509 (use of words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act.
The action was taken after around 250 students started a protest on March 30 demanding the dismissal of Padman and three other staff members named Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan and Sreenath, who have also been accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual abuse.
The police told The Times of India that Padman had been absconding after he returned from Hyderabad, where he had gone to participate in a cultural event. He had kept his mobile phone on airplane mode during the travel but had switched off the setting upon his return to Chennai on Sunday morning to call a family member. The call helped the authorities to locate his whereabouts.
The assistant professor will be produced before a magistrate court.
The student who filed the complaint against him told NDTV that she had dropped out of the post graduate programme at Kalakshetra Foundation a few years ago allegedly due to sexual harassment and verbal abuse by Padman.
“He once sought sexual favours,” the complainant said. “He asked me to come to his home saying none would get to know.”
She also claimed that as a retributive action for dismissing his advances, an important dance role was taken away from her.
On Friday, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women chief AR Kumari had said that she has received 90 complaints of sexual abuse and harassment of students at Kalakshetra Foundation following a five-hour inquiry on the campus.
“Complaints include sexual abuse of both girls and boys,” Kumari added. “I met 12 one-on-one, including six via Zoom. Earlier, I addressed all, giving them a sense of confidence to open up. I will give a report to the state government.”
On the same day, Chief Minister MK Stalin had told the state Assembly that the government will take appropriate legal action if charges against the accused staff members are confirmed during the investigation.
Students of the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts had also urged the Union Ministry of Culture, under which Kalakshetra functions, to take action against the director and the head of the dance department. They had also demanded that the Internal Complaints Committee be reconstituted with a students’ representative.