Sexually harassed teacher awaits justice for 13 months

While all the five accused in the Mumbai gang rape case were arrested within 50 hours of the crime, the cries for justice of a female teacher -- sexually harassed by her colleague in school -- seems to have fallen on deaf ears. It has been over 13 months since the incident. However, the victim is still waiting for justice, and the accused, KD Dhamale, remains a free man. The latter had allegedly uploaded obscene content related to the female teacher on the school’s computer network.

Crime scene: Rambhau Mhalgi Secondary and Higher Secondary School in Khed taluka, where the victim worked as a teacher. File pic

In July 2012, the management of Rambhau Mhalgi Secondary and Higher Secondary School in Khed terminated the services of the victim after she complained of sexual harassment there. In November, an inquiry committee was set-up to investigate the allegations. After deliberating for seven months, the three-member inquiry committee submitted its findings to the Deputy Director Education (Pune division) Suman Shinde. And it has been two months now, but Shinde, who said she was tied up with other priorities, has not initiated any action.

What’s missing
Speaking to MiD DAY, she said, “We haven’t yet decided what action to take against the institute. Ideally, every institute needs to have a Vishakha Committee to deal with complaints of sexual harassment against female staff members. However, the report says that the junior college has just not formed the committee. Hence, we’ll first inquire about that.” When asked about the shocking revelations the committee has made in its report, Shinde said, “I don’t want to comment on it, as we are yet to take a decision on the further course of action.”

Commenting on Shinde’s stand, Anjali Pawar, an activist working with NGO Sakhi, said it seems that the deputy director doesn’t know how to deal with such matters and what actions to take. “According to state government’s direction, the deputy director should initiate disciplinary action against the culprits, and with the help of a legal advisor, lodge a police complaint. I have even given her the reference of one of the advocates who deals with such cases,” Pawar said. She added, “There are Acts to punish the guilty; what we expect now is the government to use them efficiently.”

According to the report of which MiD DAY has a copy, “Dhamale was the only teacher in the school who knew how to operate a computer. All the staff members testified that it was Dhamale who looked after all the computer-related work in the school. Hence, the committee came to the conclusion that he committed the crime.” The report also stated that Dhamale is an influential person in the village and is currently looking after the charge of Director of the school. Taking advantage of his position he got the victim fired after she lodged a complaint and mentioned Dhamale as the suspect.

The findings
Conclusion drawn by the three-member inquiry committee:
>> The chairman of the institute is illiterate
>> The institute hasn’t formed a cell to deal with issues of sexual harassment
>> Environment of fear prevails in the institute
>> Male teachers are often found passing comments on female teachers
>> The teacher who faced harassment was famous among students
>> She faced harassment by teacher KD Dhamale
>> The victim filed a police complaint on January 24, 2012; she later approached NGO Sakhi
>> After the victim was fired in April 2012, all female teachers, and even the former school principal were threatened of similar harassment 

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