Four senior professors were booked Sunday for allegedly subjecting a Dalit assistant professor at IIT-Kanpur to “caste-based harassment”. They have also been issued showcause notices by the institution asking to explain why they should not be demoted.
Three of the accused professors — Sanjay Mittal, Chandra Shekhar Upadhyay (of the aerospace department) and Ishan Sharma (mechanical department) — are presently serving at IIT-Kanpur while Dr Rajiv Shekhar was shifted to IIT-Dhanbad a few months ago. He is now the institute’s director.
All four, as well as an unidentified person, have been booked under IPC section 500 (defamation), the IT Act as well as the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The FIR was registered at Kanpur’s Kalyanpur police station on the basis of a complaint filed by assistant professor Subrahmanyam Sadrela.
Sadrela, who had joined the institute’s aerospace engineering department on January 1 this year, had filed a complaint with the administration soon after, that some senior faculty members had started spreading (disinformation) that he was mentally unfit, had bad credentials and was unsuitable for the job.
“In addition to the caste-based discrimination I have been facing by the hands of these professors since the day I joined IIT Kanpur, they have now started making random allegations on my research work…They started digging up things against my wife. I am continuously being harassed and anonymous emails against me are doing the rounds in the institute,” he told The Indian Express.
IIT-Kanpur’s deputy director Maninder Agarwal, who then was officiating director, had earlier told this newspaper that the professors allegedly sent out emails against Sadrela, stating he was not fit for IIT. “After a lot of mental harassment, Sadrela complained to me and on January 12, a fact-finding committee was formed,” he had said.
In April, a three-member panel led by Lucknow-based APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University Vice-Chancellor Vinay Pathak and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) had found Sadrela’s allegations of harassment at the hands of the four professors to be true. The NCSC had then asked the IIT-Kanpur administration to lodge a complaint against the professors under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The four professors then filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court challenging the NCSC directives. The court stayed the NCSC’s direction, stating that this was beyond the scope of the commission’s powers.
Aerospace department head Professor A K Ghosh said that last month, the institute’s Board of Governance (BOG) allegedly decided to demote Mittal, Upadhyay and Shekhar after finding them guilty in the matter. Sharma was let off with a strict warning, they added.
Sadrela told this newspaper that he had gone to file a complaint over the harassment after the institute BOG found the professors guilty, but the police told him that there cannot be a separate investigation on the same. Hence, he mentioned previous instances of the alleged harassment he faced, in his complaint, he said.
“The FIR was registered Sunday night on the complaint of assistant professor Sadrela. Earlier there was an inquiry into this matter at the board level and the professors were found guilty of caste-based harassment. With that, we have lodged an FIR and will start an investigation,” said K V Mishra, station house officer (SHO) of Kalyanpur police station.