The Valson Thampu Secrets – Revealed Or Concealed ?
This time of the year is pretty important for students and the Delhi University since it’s the admission season. But this year, its not only the sky high cut offs, or the flocks of students and parents that has put the university in the news. It’s something more controversial this year. The best and most coveted college of the university, St Stephen’s college, is topping the news charts but for all the wrong reasons.
The story started on 19th June 2015, when a doctoral student in the college filed an FIR against an assistant professor of the college, accusing him of sexual assault and stalking. The news was widely circulated and became the hot topic of discussion. The whole story came out all distorted when the FIR was released and it was revealed the accused had been making sexual advances on the victim for almost two years. The FIR reported that the accused professor, Mr. Satish Kumar of the chemistry department was the victim’s guide for the doctoral thesis and had stalked her to the extent of sending students up to her house when she declined his calls and did not return to the college. The victim also claims that Kumar threatened “to pour sulfuric acid on her face if she refused to wear a yellow sari to college”. She said that after the failure of the institute’s Internal Complaints Committee to take the required action, she lost faith in them and took back her complaint. This left her with no choice, but to reach the police.
As if this wasn’t shocking enough, the FIR also revealed that the college principal Prof. Valson Thampu tried to hush things up to shield the accused professor. The PhD student who has insisted on anonymity, said that the principal intimidated her asking her to either jeopardize the completion of her PhD and go ahead with the complaint or term everything an academic problem and put an end to it. After these revelations, the Delhi University student union, along with the alumni and teachers of the college called the whole incident shameful and demanded the principal’s resignation. Amidst all this chaos, the principal broke his silence and finally gave a statement on Saturday about the whole issue. According to his statement, the complainant herself was unsure whether she wanted to treat the issue as a case of sexual harassment or not. He said that he had even suggested her to change her guide to which she responded saying that 80% of her research was over and changing her guide at this time would be detrimental to her project. On being questioned for the reason behind his not approaching the police right after he received the complaint, he said that he could have only registered a complaint with the ICC which he did duly. To support his arguments he also added that the girl wasn’t sure of sexual harassment so going to the police would have meant a breach of trust.
Now that the girl has come up with more evidences in the form of four voice recordings of the principal to prove him guilty, the severity of the case has deepened. The inability of the ICC to take any action has forced the HRD ministry to approach the University Grants Commission and ask for an expeditious and fair inquiry. But even now Thampu maintains that the criminal allegations aimed at him are untrue and says that the voice recordings have been mischievously edited to be used against him. On his Facebook page he was seen demanding a full fledged inquiry and claiming that the victim is being misled by certain elements in the college itself, although has remained conspicuous about who these elements are. While the Stephanians refuse to accept the principal’s version of the story, massive protests by student groups on Saturday demanded his resignation. Various women’s associations also suggested that he was manipulating the investigation, and for a fair investigation Thampu should be sent on a leave.
However, for Prof. Thampu, this is not the first brush with controversy. Just a few months back, his decision to ban the publication of the St Stephen’s weekly e-zine and suspending the editor landed him in the dispute. The editor, a 3rd year philosophy student, Devansh Mehta, was suspended from college for a week following a one man inquiry on the matter. He had interviewed the principal and forwarded him the transcripts. But since no response came, he published it on his website. As the interview reached the media, the principal became furious and ordered the co- founders to take the website off the net. The principal had punished the student for the undisciplined act of “speaking to the media”. As many saw this action as a violation the much celebrated right to freedom of speech, much criticism was directed at the principal and the college. The Delhi high court stayed the order for Mehta’s suspension, but the whole case shed light on the autocratic system of the college.
In the present case, the true story is yet to come out. But if we are to draw conclusions, it seems pretty obvious that the principal is trying to save his neck along with his employee’s like he did in a similar case last year when an administrative officer was indicted by the college’s sexual harassment committee. As we can see him now trying to cover up for himself and the accused professor by blaming it on some teachers trying to tarnish the college name, in that case he employed the incriminated at his own residence after removing him from the college.
What truly is happening in the college can only be found out if the inquiry goes as required. The extent of Thampu’s involvement in these cases should be enough to cause the principal’s sacking. Whether the victims get justice now depends solely on the courts.
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