BARELY TWO months after three non-teaching employees of the Chemistry department at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) were suspended following allegations of sexual harassment by nearly 55 female students against them, another shocking incident has emerged from the same department.
A case of harassment has been registered by a PhD student on Wednesday against a senior professor of the department with the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) instituted to look into the sexual harassment case.
While the university officials refuse to divulge exact details about her complaint, sources said that the complaint initially pertained to mental harassment, which the student had complained at the department level. However, having burnt their fingers once, the department officials, who were pulled up last month for trying to ‘suppress’ the sexual harassment case of 55 girls, immediately forwarded the PhD student’s complaint to the university administration.
It is learnt that the student and her family members had tried to lodge a police complaint but she was asked to first lodge her complaint with the university officials. “The student first filed a complaint with the department head. She said that a professor in her department was mentally harassing her. The department officials forwarded the complaint to us and we sent it to the ICC, which has been set up as per the Vishaka guidelines. They spoke to her for three days to ascertain the nature of complaint and if it falls under sexual harassment. Finally, on Wednesday, she filed a complaint with the ICC which is now being investigated,” said Gade.
Asked about the details of the case, Gade said that he wasn’t aware of what the student has written in her complaint. However, sources in the department said, the complaint pertains to the professor sending text messages to the student and trying to speak to her forcibly.
No action has yet been taken against the professor, confirmed the university sources. “Action cannot be taken just like that. The anti-sexual harassment committee will hear the matter and depending on the nature of complaint and seriousness, action will be recommended,” said Gade.
Meanwhile, repeated incidents in the same department has raised a question over the department’s internal security and atmosphere for students. In March, it had come to light that over 55 girls had complained to the head of department that three non-teaching staff passed lewd comments at them and stalked them by standing outside the ladies bathroom.
The department had tried to hush up the matter by trying to resolve the complaint at their level but after other staffers complained to vice-chancellor, the matter was referred to the anti-sexual harassment committee. On Thursday, head of chemistry department, Dr Nilima Rajurkar, refused to discuss the matter saying that it was now being handled by the university administration.