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IIMC again: student accuses lecturer of sexual harassment

Vishakh Unnikrishnan | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:51 IST

The beleaguered Indian Institute of Mass Communication, the country's premier journalism school, is in for more controversy.

A girl from Assam who is studying at the IIMC campus in Dhenkanal, Odisha, has filed a complaint of sexual harassment against a part-time lecturer.

In February, Sagar Rana, a clerk at the institute's Delhi campus was charged for raping a Dalit woman who worked there as a contractual labourer.

According to the complaint lodged with the institute's Internal Complaints Committee on 7 April, the lecturer had been blackmailing the student for over two weeks and demanding sexual favours. The lecturer, who had been hired on part-time basis only six months ago, has since resigned.

Read: Dalit worker alleges rape by IIMC clerk on campus

Screenshots of WhatsApp conversations made available to Catch show he had sent several lewd messages to the girl over the two-week period. In one of the messages, the girl clearly tells him not to call her again. Apparently, he had been regularly calling her late at night even though she wasn't taking his calls.

The lecturer had allegedly started blackmailing the student after she was suspended for "unknown reasons". He demanded sexual favours "in return for not telling her parents about the suspension", according to a classmate of the student who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

After the girl filed the complaint, the students staged a protest on the campus demanding the lecturer's resignation. "We are waiting for the management to take a decision on the matter, but they seem to be strangely cavalier about it, even suggesting the issue should be resolved between the two parties,” said another classmate of the girl. Told that the lecturer had quit, the student said, “We have not been given any confirmation of the resignation."

Denying wrongdoing

On his part, the lecturer confirmed to Catch that he had sent the WhatsApp messages shown in the screenshots, but alleged that they were only one side of the story: the girl's messages to him, he claimed, had been intentionally deleted from the conversations.

"Whatever conversation or talk we had, it was consensual," he claimed. "The complainant deliberately excluded her side of the conversation while sharing the messages."

Also read: Another #JusticeForRohith victim? Amit Sengupta resigns from IIMC

Denying the allegation of blackmailing the student, he claimed that it was "upon her request" that he had "personally intervened" in the matter of her suspension and ensured that her parents were not informed about it. He had even helped reduce the period of suspension, the lecturer claimed.

Still, when he was notified about the complaint, the lecturer said, he decided to resign immediately to avoid "negative media attention" and to ensure "her education isn't disturbed".

The girl wasn't available for comment, but her classmates and friends insisted that the lecturer had tried to blackmail her.

In February, Sagar Rana, a clerk at IIMC Delhi, was charged for raping a Dalit woman labourer

Mrinal Chatterjee, centre head of the Dhenkanal campus who is currently on leave, told Catch,"The Internal Complaints Committee is already looking into the matter. From what I have been told, they have already spoken with the complainant and taken requisite action to her satisfaction. I have been told the accused has already filed his resignation. I shall look into it once I get back."

The head of the complaints committee, Jayshree Jethwani, told Catch, "I have spoken to the complainant who has informed me that she is satisfied after the accused gave his resignation. The regional centre has submitted a report that the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. Nonetheless, a fact finding team from Delhi will visit Dhenkanal to look into it further."

The Dhenkanal campus, set up in 1993, does not have permanent faculty. It instead relies on contractual teaching assistants.

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

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First published: 9 April 2016, 10:40 IST
Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom

A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Vishakh tracks stories on public policy, environment and culture. Previously at Mint, he enjoys bringing in a touch of humour to the darkest of times and hardest of stories. One word self-description: Quipster.