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Pondicherry University teachers turn judge, jury in campus trial, 27-hr detention

The HRD Ministry is yet to act on the MA student's complaint that he was illegally detained and abused by faculty and security officials.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
June 9, 2015 4:51:54 am
Pondicherry University, The police report sent to NHRC states that the boy was “attacked and brutally tortured to make him confess to the crime”.

Pondicherry University, wracked by controversy around its Vice Chancellor, is back in the news with videos emerging that show how a senior professor and his colleague participated in the harassment of a student that included an alleged 27-hour detention, forced stripping and admission of a crime that he says he did not commit.

One of the teachers involved has claimed this was done on the V-C’s orders.

Watch the video: “This is the only crime you have to admit”

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The videos, obtained by The Indian Express, capture some scenes of what happened on April 6-7 in 2014 after the victim, then a first-year MA Tamil student, was accused of being the “masked, naked intruder” spotted at the women’s hostel three days earlier.

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A preliminary probe by the university and another by its then registrar corroborate the student’s claim, based on CCTV footage, that he was in the library when the alleged hostel intrusion occurred.

The student, whose mother is a labourer in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district, scored 90% in all semesters except the one that followed his detention.

The videos are part of multiple probe reports and an action-taken report by local police that confirm “torture” and “illegal detention”, and petitions send by the student, including to HRD Minister Smriti Irani — Pondicherry University is a Central university — and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

And yet, over a year later — the victim has since completed his course — the HRD Ministry is yet to act on his complaint that he was illegally detained and abused by faculty and security officials.

In his complaint, the student has named S Hariharan, director of the academic staff college of the university; Bushan D Sudhakar, a faculty of the department of International Business; two security officials and Vice-Chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy.

Hariharan is seen questioning the student aggressively in the video, most of which was shot by Sudhakar.

The police report sent to NHRC states that the boy was “attacked and brutally tortured to make him confess to the crime”. A senior officer at the Kalapet police station, where the student had lodged a complaint about the incident on April 11, told The Indian Express that they have also filed a chargesheet in the case, naming Hariharan and Sudhakar among others.

“They were declared as absconding at first but later obtained anticipatory bail,” he said.

Justice D Murugesan, a member of NHRC, told The Indian Express that the commission has “asked for a detailed report as the reply from the university was not satisfactory”.

Krishnamurthy, Hariharan and Sudhakar have also been named in petitions send by the student to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the offices of President Pranab Mukherjee, the university’s Visitor, and Vice President Hamid Ansari, its Chancellor.

When contacted, a senior HRD official, who did not wish to be named, said a fact-finding committee appointed by the ministry to probe various complaints against the V-C and her administration had found her responsible for inaction in this incident. But he admitted that the ministry has not acted on the report yet.

Krishnamurthy was not available for comment despite repeated attempts. She was in the news last year when she was accused by academics of allegedly plagiarising parts of a book that she claimed in her CV had been authored by her.

Hariharan declined to comment saying he was busy in hospital tending to his ill father.

Sudhakar, his colleague, claimed that the student was picked up from his hostel with warden’s permission, and on the V-C’s orders. “All that we had done was as per the instruction from V-C. She insisted us to keep him in custody because she said going to the police will spoil his career,” he said.

Asked why the student was stripped, Sudhakar said, “We wanted to check his body whether he had been beaten. So we removed his shirt. When I asked him to remove his trousers, he refused as he was not wearing inner wear. Immediately I sent my men to a shop and bought him inner wear and made him wear that.”

Asked about the clipping that shows the student standing before a group of women in the ladies’ hostel, Sudhakar said that was done on the suggestion of a woman security officer who wanted the hostel residents to identify him.

“It was not (an identification) parade, we didn’t question him,” Sudhakar said.

After the preliminary in-house probe found the student not guilty based on CCTV footage, V-C Krishnamurthy set up a second inquiry commission, headed by N Narasimhan, a retired IPS officer, and also comprising a retired magistrate and an SP-rank officer.

The result of that probe has never released.

However, an independent probe report on the incident sent on June 27, 2014 by the then university registrar Raajiv Yaduvanshi to HRD Secretary Ashok Thakur confirmed that the “student was kept under detention under the V-C’s order and subsequently compelled to confess and was paraded at the girl’s hostel”.

While the “parade” happened inside the ladies’ hostel, the student said in his complaint that he was detained at a security room below the office of V-C Krishnamurthy at the university’s administration office.

In his report, Yaduvanshi recommended action against Hariharan who is part of at least 30 administrative and academic committees. Sudhakar heads the vigilance and security wing of the university.

According to the student, Hariharan had first pulled him up for wearing another student’s shirt, which led to a search of his room and the alleged detention hours later.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the student said, “When I told them that I had returned the shirt, they alleged that I had entered girl’s hostel. I denied that but they took me to the security room where I was stripped and made to sit on the floor in inner wear. I told them that I was in the library that day but a team headed by Hariharan started questioning me while beating me with a lathi.”

The student said Sudhakar told him that “my confession on camera will save me from other charges” including theft of other items, such as iPods, from the hostels.

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