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Sex harassment claims shake Indian dance academy

Team Parvasi – Inside

No of Sex harassment claims shake Indian dance academy

Chennai: INDIA’S renowned art and cultural institution Kalakshetra has been embroiled over allegations of sexual harassment against a faculty member and three artists who work as substitute teachers at the prestigious dance academy. According to a report, police had arrested an assistant professor and an accomplished dancer Hari Padman last week after a former student lodged a complaint, accusing him of sexual abuse.

The development came after days of protests by more than 200 students of the institute, located in the city of Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The students said sexual harassment had been going on at the campus for years and accused the administration of ignoring their complaints.

In a statement issued on its website, the Kalakshetra Foundation — which is an autonomous institution under India’s culture ministry — blamed “vested interests” for trying to “sully” its reputation. After it began circulating on the internet, the foundation announced a three-member panel, led by a retired high court judge, to investigate the allegations. It also suspended Mr Padman and said the services of the three repertory artists had been “dispensed with pending inquiry”.

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The foundation said it will be inappropriate to make any comment on the incidents as the case is still in progress. However, the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women has also launched an inquiry into the allegations.

“There are hundreds of students studying in Kalakshetra. Ask them if I ever misbehaved with them or misspoke. I have never abused anybody. I stand by my conscience and I know they do not have a shred of evidence,” he told News18, adding that he would rely on CCTV footage to prove his innocence.

His wife, Divya Hari Padman, had also defended him and lodged a counter-complaint against the complainant and two of Kalakshetra’s teachers, accusing them of levelling false charges against her husband out of “jealousy and professional rivalry”.

She said the charges against her husband were “an act of revenge” because he had “chided” some students for bad behaviour and that the two teachers had “instigated” the former student to lodge the complaint.

NEWS

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