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IIT Madras research scholar alleges sexual assault, harassment, FIR against 8

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Chennai: A research scholar at the IIT Madras here has accused her fellow scholar of sexually assaulting her repeatedly and also harassing her at work place along with his accomplices including two of her professors for nearly four years after she joined the institution in 2016.

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Apart from the physical and mental trauma she was subjected to by the group of men at the institution and during a trip to Coorg, as well, the scholar was prevented from using the laboratory equipment to work on her thesis, she claimed.

Police have also filed a case in the matter, naming eight persons in the FIR.

Alarmed at the unpleasant turn of events during her academic pursuit, she had remained silent initially but later overcoming her shock she summoned courage to complain to the internal Complaints Committee against Sexual Harassment (CCASH), which in its interim recommendation sought to restrain her three fellow scholars including the main accused – against whom she levelled her accusations – from entering the campus till she completed her work with respect to her PhD and submits her thesis.

“Further, the guides should ensure that the respondents do not submit their thesis until the scholar (victim) submits,” the committee said while postponing further investigation until she submitted her thesis.

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Taking exception to the leniency meted out to the men who allegedly sexually, physically and mentally harassed her, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Tamil Nadu president S Valentina and general secretary P Suganthi, who took up the girl’s case, have sought justice to the victim and stringent action against the perpetrators. The leaders claimed that the CCASH enquired and gave an interim order on October 10, 2020, based on the scholar’s complaint on July 17, 2020.

They said the victim was a member of the Scheduled Castes community.

“The full process does not seem to have been completed. The police filed a FIR, arranged for her deposition before a magistrate and had issued summons to the accused by mail,” Valentina and Suganthi said. They requested the CCASH not to stop with the investigation with the interim report but proceed in a detailed manner and complete it to render justice to the victim.

“The interim recommendation was given based on an online deposition. The victim informed that the main culprit forcefully captured her photos (in an objectionable manner) but there was no investigation on finding the pictures despite several requests from the victim,” they said.

Hence, to complete the investigation, the committee should conduct the process in person as this is a serious criminal offence which can be a threat to the victim for the rest of her life, the leaders added.

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Shockingly, the main accused is continuously present in the online meetings, carrying out his work without any hindrance and this puts the victim in a real trauma, they alleged and expressed concern that the accused may submit the synopsis and subsequent thesis and get away from the disciplinary action of IIT Madras.

Based on her complaint, the CCASH found that her fellow scholar abused her verbally, physically twice – once in the lab and during the Coorg trip, prevented her from using the instruments in the lab and even reprimanded her for using chemicals. He made her feel uncomfortable in the lab in the presence of co-guide who failed to warn him when the girl complained. Another professor joined hands with the main accused to ensure that she does not get slot time on the instruments, the CCASH found during the Google meet enquiry held on nine occasions from July 29, 2020 to September 1, 2020.

It also found that her three fellow scholars and a professor indulged in describing the girl in a vulgar manner. Besides, they “indulged in substance abuse,” it said.

A case was been filed by the Mylapore All Women Police in June last year following the National Commission for Women’s intervention. Cases were registered against eight persons.

The culprits have not been arrested so far, Sugandhi told reporters here and demanded the probe to be transferred to the Crime Branch CID for thorough investigation and appropriate action.

There was no immediate response from IIT Madras on the research scholar’s allegation.

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