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India: Sahitya Akademi Sacks Woman Who Accused Secretary of Sexual Harassment

Sunday 23 February 2020, by siawi3


Sahitya Akademi Sacks Woman Who Accused Secretary of Sexual Harassment

by Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar


A day before her two-year probation was to come to an end, the Sahitya Akademi terminated the services of an officer who had accused the secretary of the organisation of repeated sexual harassment, reports Gaurav Bhatnagar.

The termination order came even though the inquiry in the matter is still pending and the Delhi high court has allowed the complainant to take three months paid leave till March 16.

“The complainant, who has been at a deputy secretary-level post at the Sahitya Akademi since February 2018, alleged that she suffered severe sexual harassment of “many forms” at the hands of the secretary, K. Sreenivasarao, since the beginning of her employment. These, she charged, included but were “not limited to inappropriate sexual advances, unwelcome physical and sexual contact, and sexually-coloured remarks”.

“She also claimed that since the secretary was her supervisor, he had complete control over her working conditions and used his position to threaten her with “adverse consequences for her employment and career prospects at Sahitya Akademi”, especially given that she was still serving her probation period, which was to end on February 15, 2020.

Plea before high court accused secretary of making racist, sexist comments

“Just a month after her probation began, the complainant – who hails from Assam – said the officer began harassing her.

“She accused the secretary of making “racist and sexist comments on women hailing from the North-East, particularly from Assam, which is the Petitioner’s home state,” in her petition before the high court.
“Her petition before the Delhi high court, as also her complaints to the Akademi, listed the major instances of sexual harassment.

Accused commented on breasts, things he could do to her

“The first instance is alleged to have taken place between September 4 and 6, 2018 when the complainant travelled, with the accused, to Leh for the Convention on Contribution of Bhoti Language for the Preservation of Indian Culture. She had recently got married and complained that Sreenivasarao commented that she had grown “big” after her marriage. She thought he was referring to her weight and responded by saying that she did put on weight, after which he gestured towards her breasts and said, “pumping-shumping hua hai (some pumping-shumping has happened)”.

“On November 14, 2018, when the complainant travelled to Gangtok for the Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2018, she said that Sreenivasarao made her travel with him alone in his car on the pretext of some work during the entire trip. One evening, she alleged in her petition, “he ran his hands over the Petitioner’s shoulder and hand, and pinched her. In complete shock, the Petitioner shrieked and asked him why he did that, he said that women from the North-East were supposed to be “cool”.”

Assault in press club elevator

“When the complainant and Sreenivasarao were in Ranchi between September 13-15, 2019, for the Convention on Sadri Language, she alleged that he misbehaved with her in the Ranchi Press Club elevator. “On the day of the event, September 14, 2019, around 10:15 am when they were in the Ranchi Press Club elevator alone, K. Sreenivasarao forcibly put his finger in the Petitioner’s mouth, who pushed his hand away and asked him what he was trying to do. He brushed aside her clear disgust at his behaviour and instead asked her why she was so angry.”