Barely a week after he was forced to resign under a cloud following allegations of sexual misbehaviour, Dr Gautam Bhong, vice-principal of Abasaheb Garware College, took back his resignation on September 19. His reason for the move? He “changed his mind”.
Dr Gautam Bhong
While college authorities are yet to take a call, the move has left Bhong’s victims gobsmacked. The alleged victims included both female students and staff, but none of them had officially registered a complaint against him. They had told mid-day that Bhong used to send lewd text messages to his victims and was infamous for his approach to women.
“On Friday, Bhong submitted a letter intimating us that he was taking back his resignation as he had changed his mind. The management has not yet decided on this, but, technically, he cannot just take back his resignation, as we had already issued a relieving letter to him after accepting his resignation,” said Anil Valsangkar, chief executive officer (CEO) of Maharashtra Education Society (MES), which administers the college. Bhong had resigned from his post on September 12, allegedly to avoid an inquiry into allegations of sexual misbehaviour.
Students and employees told mid-day that they will hold protests if the management approves Bhong’s decision to return to the college.
The father of one of the victims said, “Rather than just accepting Bhong’s resignation, the college management should have sacked him and instituted a departmental inquiry. If that had been done, he wouldn’t have had this opportunity to shamelessly take back his resignation. I feel that more victims should come forward and file complaints against him.”
Another victim, who had received vulgar texts from Bhong just some time before he resigned, said, “Initially I thought that he had sent me that message by mistake. But it is now becoming clear that this was his modus operandi to get close to women. The college should not allow him to re-enter the premises ever again.”
Despite such staunch opposition to his decision, Bhong himself is ‘positive’ about his return. “In that particular situation, I felt I should put in my papers and, thus, I resigned. But now, I have changed my mind and I feel that the college authorities will also consider my application sympathetically,” Bhong said. “I am quite hopeful of getting a positive reply from the management. I have worked in this college for 28 years,” he added.
Expressing deep anguish over reports of Dr Gautam Bhong’s alleged sexual misbehaviour, Savitribai Phule Pune University Vice-Chancellor Dr W N Gade assured mid-day that he will act against Bhong if he receives a formal complaint from any of the victims.
“I am very sensitive about such cases and I will not spare anybody. The only thing is that victims need to come forward and file a formal complaint against him. This is a very serious matter. The university will ensure harsh punishment, not just in this case but in any case where a person’s character comes under the scanner,” Gade said.
When mid-day told Gade that it had come to our knowledge that he had given a strict warning to Bhong after receiving several complaints about his behaviour, the vice-chancellor said, “All that was hearsay. For taking action, adequate evidence is necessary. In such matters, a formal complaint is required to initiate action.”