Ex-Kalakshetra faculty member Sheejith Krishna arrested over sexual harassment complaints - Hindustan Times
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Ex-Kalakshetra faculty member Sheejith Krishna arrested over sexual harassment complaints

Apr 24, 2024 11:01 AM IST

The premier performing arts institution made headlines last year after students went on protests, alleging sexual harassment by four teachers

The Tamil Nadu police have arrested Bharatanatyam dancer Sheejith Krishna following a sexual harassment complaint by two of his former students when he was a faculty member at Chennai’s Kalakshetra Foundation.

Sheejith Krishna (Fscebook photo)
Sheejith Krishna (Fscebook photo)

Based on the directions of the Madras high court, a preliminary enquiry was conducted on the complaint, an officer at the All Women’s Police Station in Neelankarai said. “They were students of the foundation during 1995-2007,” the officer said. “In February, we registered a case against the accused.”

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The 51-year-old dancer was arrested on April 22. “The accused was produced before the concerned court and was remanded to judicial custody on the same day,” the officer said.

The premier performing arts institution made headlines last year after students went on protests, alleging sexual harassment by four teachers. Hari Padman, an assistant professor, was the first to be accused by several students at the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, housed in the Kalakshetra campus.

The Chennai police arrested Padman in April last year based on the complaint of an alumna. He has been out on bail since June 2023. The institute’s governing board suspended Padman and dismissed three other instructors – Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan and Sreenath.

Seven students had moved the Madras HC last April keeping their identity protected. They sought a safe learning environment and a redressal mechanism to deal with complaints on campus. The high court subsequently directed the Kalakshetra Foundation to produce profiles of the members in the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) constituted earlier on 3 April 2023. The court also wanted them to frame a new policy that includes parents and teachers and then reconstitute the ICC.

In August 2023, a report by the independent enquiry committee constituted by the Kalakshetra Foundation described Padman as a “delinquent employee”, recommending “major punishment” against him.

The committee was led by K Kannan, a retired justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court and comprising Letika Saran, former Tamil Nadu police chief, and medical professional Shobha Varthaman. It was set up by S Ramadorai, chairman of Kalakshetra, following the directions of the high court bowing to the demands of the students who wished for an independent probe since they alleged that the institute’s management was protecting the accused.

Padman’s arrest, an investigation by the Tamil Nadu government and the Kalakshetra board’s decision came after weeks of denial. On March 19 last year, the Kalakshetra administration released a statement that said its internal complaints committee found no truth in the allegations by the students.

The students began protesting on 30 March 2023, demanding that the four teachers, including Padman, be suspended for alleged sexual harassment against female and male students and alumni.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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