Facing allegations of attempting to cover up a sexual harassment case against a faculty member, St Stephen’s College Principal Valson Thampu sparked a buzz Tuesday by posting on Facebook that he was “tempted” to write a novel titled “The Vixen of Stephenville” — hours later, he deleted the post, claiming it was a “test” for the media.
Thampu’s second post, uploaded at around 11 pm, said: “I decided to put my media friends to a test. Announced a short while ago my intention to write a piece… and gave it an intriguing title. Just as I expected, it was picked up at once.”
Asked to explain the flip-flop, Thampu told The Indian Express: “I didn’t want journalists to see this post, that’s why I posted it so late at night.”
In his original post, put up at around 6.30 pm, Thampu had written: “I have never tried my hands at writing detective fiction. Am strongly tempted to write a potboiler under the title – The Vixen of Stephenville.”
He added: “Shall turn to this as and when time permits. May be, I have to wait till I get a little time to myself, which will be, it seems, only after retirement. The plot, though, is with me, ready made and full-grown, complete in all details.”
The post drew flak from the Association of Old Stephanians, which charged that it reflected the principal’s “sick mindset” and “intellectual bankruptcy”.
The association also alleged that the principal was alluding in the post to either the complainant in the sexual harassment case or Nandita Narain, president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), who had supported her.
“To use the word vixen in the title of his novel is reflective of the sick mindset of Thampu. It shows his intellectual bankruptcy and proclivity. In the backdrop of the sexual harassment cover-up by him and the Supreme Court dismissing Thampu’s efforts to get a stay vacated, one could hazard a guess that he is alluding to Nandita Narain or the victim,” alleged Ashish Joshi, media coordinator of the association.
When contacted initially by The Indian Express regarding the original post, Thampu had said that it was not contextual.
“I have clearly written that it will be a work of fiction. I don’t see the problem. If it was contextual, why would I say that I’ll write it post-retirement? I would write it right away. First and foremost, I am a writer and author, and that is what gives me the greatest satisfaction,” he had said.
Thampu had also refused to divulge the plot of his “story”, saying: “No author would reveal the first sentence, leave alone the plot. It is like a baby which undergoes gestation in the darkness of a mother’s womb, not in the open for all to see.”
When contacted, Narain declined to comment on the post.
St Stephen’s College has been mired in controversy with a female research scholar accusing her Chemistry PhD guide of sexual assault.
The complainant also alleged that Thampu tried to cover up the issue by treating it as an academic problem and told her to withdraw her complaint from the college’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
The Supreme Court had recently rejected a plea by the St Stephen’s management seeking the right to probe charges of alleged misconduct against the faculty member.