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Founder of Chandigarh’s top school accused of child abuse, sexual harassment

Delhi-based freelance journalist and eco-tourism entrepreneur Sanjay Austa accused Harold Carver, founder-director of St Stephen’s School, of sexually harassing him and his hostel mates.

punjab Updated: Oct 13, 2018 19:44 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Chandigarh school,Sanjay Austa,Harold Carver
Harold Carver who was then principal allegedly made a suggestion for a physical relationship with Sanjay Austa when he was 15 years old after calling him to his office.(AFP File/Representative image)

As the #MeToo tide sweeps across the country, outing several powerful people across various fields, the founder-director of a Chandigarh school has been accused of child abuse and sexual harassment by a former student.

In a blog, Delhi-based freelance journalist and eco-tourism entrepreneur Sanjay Austa (42) recalled his hostel life accusing Harold Carver, founder-director of St Stephen’s School of sexually harassing him and his hostel mates. He had joined the school in 1989 in the ninth standard.

Austa alleged that Carver tried to browbeat him with the idea that sex with him would change his life. Carver who was then his principal allegedly made a suggestion for a physical relationship with him when he was 15 years old after calling him to his office.

Carver was not available for comment.

School’s principal Louis Lopez said, “The person accused by Austa is known to be a man of immense integrity. With the ongoing #MeToo movement, someone has come out from nowhere and made these statements with an attempt to malign the director’s reputation.”

Austa further wrote in his blog: “He tried inducements. He said he would appoint me the school captain.”

Carver had earlier been arrested once after half a dozen boarders in the hostel that he ran, accused him of child abuse.

“They went to court with the allegations. However, they could not sustain the vicious grilling by Mr. Carver’s fat-cat lawyers..... In the end these boys, along with their parents, decided it was best to thrown in the towel. They withdrew their charges. Shamed, humiliated and disparaged, they dropped out of school and disappeared,” Austa wrote.

Carver was released and promptly reinstated and he returned to school assembly as if nothing had happened, he wrote in the blog.

But now Austa wishes that his former hostel mates would pursue legal options against Carver. “I wish people especially those boys whom I’ve lost contact with come forward and decide to pursue this legally and reopen the case,” Austa said.

“The hostel run by Carver was shut down after which we were moved to Sector 38. We were made to share the place with bus drivers and cooks and had common washrooms,” Austa told HT.

Austa said that his grades had started to dip. Despite his father’s decision to shift him to another school, Carver expressed his concern and asked Austa to speak with him regarding the issue.

“He asked my father to wait in his office and took me to a classroom. He then made me sit opposite to him and asked - Do you masturbate?” alleges Austa.

Flabbergasted and not knowing any better in what he describes as a pre-Google area, Austa nodded his head, and to his surprise, was allotted the hostel accommodation.

Austa alleged that Carver once asked him, “What would you do if I kissed you?”

Austa alleges that as soon as he shared the tale with the fellow hostellers, the word spread quickly. Austa claims the vice principal questioned him about the “rumour” following which Carver stopped coming to school.

The vice principal allegedly told Austa that the matter had been taken care of and asked him to accompany him to a school board member’s house to confirm the incident.

Austa recalls that he was assured by the then principal Pritam Singh and the board member that Carver would be suspended. However, as soon as he left the institute, Carver was back on duty.

First Published: Oct 13, 2018 15:51 IST