A Central University of Kerala Associate Professor, who was under suspension owing to a complaint of alleged harassment and caste-based discrimination by a Dalit scholar, has now filed a writ petition in the High Court of Kerala against the student and his university — accusing them back of wrongful harassment. The writ that names the scholar as its eighth respondent will be heard by the court on Monday.
The academic was suspended in March, following the researcher’s complaint in December. At that time, she had written to the university, alleging caste-based discrimination and emotional abuse, and had sought a guide change. “He often discourages me saying that there was no competition during my admission because I’m an ST candidate. I am not ready to suffer this humiliation and demoralising attitude because I believe I got admission here as the DRC found me eligible,” reads the letter by the student, who calls herself a victim of academic harassment.
The student, Amita*, who apparently got a copy of the writ a couple of days ago, tells us that it was ‘traumatising’ for her. “I am in a very bad state of mind right now. I was unnecessarily dragged into this. I had sought a change of guide from the university,” she says. “What I faced was not an explicit case of abuse. It was subtle and almost difficult to realise. There was a lot of emotional abuse and gaslighting. He is manipulative and often invaded my personal space,” she says.
Amita’s complaint was further forwarded to the university’s ICC and SC/ST Cell. The ICC had further submitted a report, based on its investigation. “The respondent should not have indulged in conversations with complainant indicative of his proclivity in making casteist remarks. As evident in his remarks, the respondent has failed to understand that every individual deserves to be treated with respect,” reads the report. The ICC also said that the academic, Pradeep*, had tried to intimidate its members during the investigation. Amita has further accused Pradeep of blaming her for conspiring against him. “He told his colleagues that I was an attention seeker,” she says.
Pradeep, on the other hand, tells us that he had never accused Amita of carrying on a conspiracy. “This is the university’s attempt to degrade and defame me. They had suspended me for six months originally and then decided to extend it. I had challenged that decision in court,” he says. Pradeep, who has previously been dragged into a series of controversies with the university’s administration, says that while the student’s complaint was only pertaining to a guide’s change, the university had misused it to sabotage his career. “I only added her name as a respondent since this issue was escalated based on her complaint,” he says.
Various student political organisations in the university have also raised their voice against the university administration and the academic. “We seek his dismissal, rather than his suspension,” says Davis Titus, the university’s NSUI Unit President. “The university was also negligent about the issue, which led to the complainant being dragged to court, seven months after the issue,” he says.
*Names changed on requestTAGS