Countering charges that he tried shielding a teacher accused of molesting a PhD student, St. Stephen’s college Principal Valson Thampu on Sunday claimed he had offered the girl to change the guide but she had “refused” to accept the suggestion.
“When the girl had approached me with the complaint she had insisted that the matter not be treated as one of sexual harassment to solely ensure that her PhD is completed on time. Understanding her concern, I suggested her to change the guide but she had not accepted the suggestion and insisted on completing the remaining research under him,” Thampu said.
An FIR has been registered against Satish Kumar, an assistant professor in St Stephen’s chemistry department, after the PhD student filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment by him.
The student, who is doing her PhD under Kumar, has also alleged that college principal Valson Thampu tried to protect him when the matter was reported to the college authorities.
According to the complaint, Kumar – who also discharges the duties of the bursar – molested the complainant on October 15, 2013.
The student has also accused him of stalking her, passing lewd remarks and making inappropriate physical contact for months before the incident.
Kumar once even threatened to “pour sulfuric acid on her if she didn’t wear a yellow sari to college”, the complaint read.
The complainant alleged that Thampu discouraged her from filing a sexual harassment case, leaving her with two options – “go to Delhi University’s grievance redressal cell and jeopardise my degree or term the issue an academic problem”.
She also maintained that 80 per cent of her research was completed and change of guide was not feasible at that stage.
“I had myself insisted that it is a serious matter and should be referred to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), a statutory body meant to address such cases. The Principal does not have, as such, any authority over her. I could not have prevented her from seeking redressal from the relevant committee. I have no coercive power on her,” he said.
Meanwhile, the girl has withdrawn her complaint from the college’s ICC saying she has no faith in its proceedings.
“I have absolutely no faith in the way the proceedings before the committee have proceeded. I strongly believe that an attempt is being made to character assassinate me and save Dr Kumar.
“I am therefore, withdrawing my complaint and will not be taking part in any further proceedings of your committee as I have lost faith in the committee. I have hence chosen to seek justice before the appropriate authorities,” the victim said in an email to the ICC chairman.
Following lodging of an FIR, police had approached the college on Saturday and questioned various officials in connection with the case.
“The victim had recorded her statement before magistrate on Saturday and we had visited the college and quizzed members of administration as well as the ICC,” a senior police official said, adding, “further investigation is on in the case”.
The student has also found support from college alumni, teachers and women activists.
While Delhi Commission for Women Chief Barkha Singh dubbed the incident as “shameful” and called for a thorough probe, All India Democratic Women’s Association and Centre for Struggling Women (CSW) also condemned the delayed action by college.
The Old Stephanians Association, an alumni group which is not recognised by the college and has raised several allegations against Thampu in the past, reiterated its demand for the prinicpal’s removal and demanded that DU administration steps into the issue.
Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) also demanded that the accused is asked to step down pending an inquiry against him.