It is the due to the havoc caused after the notorious ‘Delhi gang rape’, that the “safest city” campaign started in the city. A good look at any bus station or waiting stand and anybody can easily spot a billboard on how the ‘one-click-alert’ app works or how eager the Delhi Police is to serve the insecure females. This time around, the principal of Delhi’s prestigious St.Stephen’s College, is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Valson Thampu has been accused of compromising the dignity and safety of a research scholar, who had allegedly been sexually harassed by a member of college faculty. Having approached the principal with the complaint, the victim said, he tried to convince her not to file a report.
According to the victim – a research scholar, the Bursar of the college and thesis adviser her research, Satish Kumar, had been constantly attempting to sexually assault her and was openly expressing his sexual whims on her. “When approached to complaint, Thampu told me if I go to the university’s internal complaints committee (a statutory body meant to address such cases), my degree will be jeopardized. He wanted me to register a compliant of academic problem,” said the victim, to a private media firm. When she refused to abide, Thampu allegedly tried to intimidated her by blocking her monthly stipend of Rs. 1800 and forced her to resolve the matter within the college itself.
The FIR copy of the victim’s complaint said, that, Dr. Satish Kumar, an assistant professor to the dept. of Chemistry at St. Stephen’s college, who had frequently been attempting sexual assaults on the victim, whom he calls the best among his students, was also asking her to get married soon, so that he could help himself control his whims. The principal is also accused of asking the victim’s parents to turn the complaint into an academic one, so as to confide it into the college itself.
Following the principal’s threats, the victim withdrew the complaint from the college’s Internal Investigation Committee, which was probing the matter, stating that she has no faith in them. Instead, she filed an FIR with Maurice Nagar police station, under sections 354 (assaulting women with an intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment) and 354D (stalking), of the Indian Penal Code.
The first attempt to assault took place in October 2013, according to the FIR, which was followed by several incidents of harassment, like “pulling her over him” and inappropriate touches. When she requested to switch the adviser, Thampu and her supervisor at Delhi University rejected the plea.
At the same time, Thampu has denied all the allegations, calling them efforts to tarnish the college. “On 10 December 2014, the complainant met me with the grievance that Dr Satish Kumar, her research guide, subjected her to sexual harassment in 2013. She further complained that Dr Kumar was not taking due interest in her research work. I advised her to file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee. The complainant resolutely refused to do so, saying all she wants is to earn her PhD degree and that the principal should help her to that end. She told me that her father and sister wanted to meet me. I gave an appointment. A week later the father and sister of the complainant, together with her, met me in my office. With folded hands, the father pleaded not to turn this into a complaint of sexual harassment as it could result in a scandal for both parties and also affect his daughter’s chance of getting a PhD,” he wrote in a statement published by NDTV.
However, most students have reject Thampu’s version. This incident follows Thampu’s court trial, regarding his suspension of an online magazine released by students. Accused to have slayed the students’ right to expression, this time around, it is the right to justice and dignity that he has denied.