A PhD student of St Stephen’s College went to the police on Friday with a complaint of sexual harassment against a professor and accused principal Valson Thampu of trying to protect the faculty member when the matter was brought to his notice.
According to the complaint, chemistry professor Satish 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 sulphuric acid on her if she didn’t wear a yellow sari to college”, the complaint read.
The woman said she stopped going to college after the incident but Kumar called her repeatedly, stalked her on social media and sent other students to look for her till she finally confided in her parents. When the family confronted Kumar later in the month, he apologised and “promised never to repeat such behaviour”, she said. But, she added, the harassment continued.
According to the FIR, the parents took their complaint to Thampu in December 2014, but he dismissed the issue as a “purely academic problem”. The complainant said Thampu discouraged her from filing a sexual harassment case, giving her two options instead — “go to Delhi University’s grievance redressal cell and jeopardise my degree or term the issue an academic problem”. She also accused Kumar of blocking her monthly stipend of Rs 18,000.
The student decided to approach the grievance redressal cell, which started looking into the matter on January 15. The cell is yet to reveal its findings and held its last meeting on May 19. Unhappy with the slow pace of proceedings, the student approached the police on Friday. A magisterial hearing in the case will be held on Saturday.
Thampu told HT, “I am unaware of the matter and have no involvement in it.”
The college’s media coordinator said, “An inquiry is nearing completion. It is reiterated that St. Stephen’s is uncompromisingly committed to the safety and dignity of women on campus and no effort will be spared to ensure justice is done. The college appeals to all concerned not to undermine the solemnity of the pursuit of justice for the allurement of ulterior gains of whatever kind.”
Despite repeated attempts by HT, professor Satish Kumar could not be contacted.
St. Stephen’s had found itself in a similar controversy last year when an administrative officer was indicted by the college’s sexual harassment committee. He, however, continues to be employed by the college at the principal’s residence.