The board of Kalakshetra Foundation has appointed an independent inquiry committee to investigate allegations of sexual harassment made against several teachers. The decision came after one of the accused, Assistant Professor Hari Padman, was arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police on Monday.
In addition to suspending Padman pending the inquiry, the board has also decided to terminate the services of three other teaching faculties—Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath, who are repertory artists.
The foundation’s board held a meeting to review the situation and expressed concerns over recent events. The independent inquiry committee will be led by Justice (Retd) K Kannan and will include Letika Saran, former Tamil Nadu DGP, and Dr Shobha Varthaman.
The board also made several other decisions, including the reconstitution of the Internal Complaints Committee, the appointment of a new student counsellor, and the establishment of an independent advisory committee to strengthen the administration of the Kalakshetra Foundation. These were some of the major demands raised by students who struck classes, boycotted exams and protested last week.
The Foundation has appealed to its students to attend the rescheduled examinations and has assured them that it is fully committed to ensuring their safety and security. “The board’s decisions are aimed at providing a secure and inclusive environment for all students,” it said.
B S Ajeetha, the external member of Kalakshetra Foundation’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), has resigned due to dissatisfaction over the administration’s response to sexual harassment allegations against faculty members. Ajeetha was involved with the institution’s awareness programmes and inquiries for the past four years.
In her resignation letter to the administration on Tuesday, the lawyer wrote, “The present atmosphere in the institution and the largescale discontentment of women students and staff make me rethink as to whether I should continue to be an external member of the ICC attached to the institute. I have my own reservations regarding the responses made by the administration to the present controversy hence I don’t want to associate myself anymore with your institution and particularly to continue as a member of the IC.”
She continued, “I hope better council will prevail to administration and things will be started out in a judicious manner which will be acceptable to all affected students.”
The allegations of sexual harassment have caused concern in the dance community and beyond even as the management of the dance school was indifferent to students’ protests initially. Protests escalated after the management and the National Commission for Women (NCW) concluded that there were no complaints to prove the sexual harassment charges.
The escalating situation prompted the Tamil Nadu government to step in, and the police to take action against the accused from last Friday.