As per news reports, as many as thousand students of SRM University located in the outskirts of Chennai came out in protest against the alleged inaction of the college authorities in a case of on-campus sexual harassment. A second-year undergraduate student was allegedly harassed by college staff in the hostel premises.
A man, who students claimed was a gardener, allegedly masturbated in front of her in a lift in the women’s hostel. In a conversation with NDTV a woman student said, “She had pressed the 4th floor button and he, the 6th. But the man moved the lift to the 8th floor. He did not let her go until she screamed.”
According to another student, it took two-three hours for college authorities to scourge through CCTV footage and when it was found, only then did the hostel warden believe the student’s part of the story.
In response to the complaint, instead of filing an FIR immediately, the hostel warden resorted to moral policing the students about their short clothes implying that the girl was responsible for the harassment. According to a post written by a student on social media the hostel warden also insinuated that such things happen to ‘North Indian’ girls.
Subsequently, the students protested against the inaction of the University and posted on their social media about the same. They further alleged that the management had tried its best to prevent the launch of the agitation. Videos shared by students on campus show hundreds of students pushing barricades, marching in campus and raising slogans. They also show women students breaking the gates of the hostel block which were locked down.
However, this is not the first time students have complained about the staff’s inappropriate behavior. “There are a few rooms in our hostel, which have windows opening into the corridor. There have been a lot of instances when we have noticed workers peeking into our rooms in the night. We have complained about that also, but nothing has changed,” a student told The News Minute.
The Vice Chancellor has denied any allegations on the part of the University administration. In a conversation with PTI, he stated, “Students are discussing with us. Whatever the matter is, it will be taken care of. If there is a matter, it will be inquired.”
However, in one of the videos shared by students he is seen telling one of the protesting girl student, “Don’t try to make an issue out of nothing.”
While the hostel warden claimed that the gardener has been arrested, the police officials have said that no formal complaint was filed till 11 PM on Thursday. It was only on Friday that the 28-year-old employee was arrested.
Mythili, Director of Student Affairs, earlier while speaking to Indian Express, said that the management terminated the worker against whom the allegations had been made.“We have sent him out, but we can’t take further action until there’s more clarity over the issue,” she said.
The officer indicated that the allegation seems to be a ‘ploy’ to get Friday’s exams cancelled. “Their last exam was originally on Thursday but due to rain, they were postponed to Friday and many had already booked flight and train tickets to leave home on Friday for vacation,” the officer said.
The students denied these allegations claiming that the police always works hand in hand with the management to suppress student voices and prevent resistance.
Following the relentless protests by the students on the campus and uproar on social media, the warden who had shamed the victim for what he termed her ‘inappropriate clothing’ has been suspended.
A press note has also been released by SRM University expressing the administration’s regret over what they call ‘an unfortunate incident.’