Dean at Pune university accused of sending lewd texts to women

Sep 16, 2014, 09:57 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

Dr Gautam Bhong, vice-principal of Abashaheb Garware College, resigned after allegations of sexual misbehaviour were levelled against him, in a bid to avoid an inquiry

In a shocking incident revealing just how unsafe college campuses in the city are for girls, Dr Gautam Bhong vice-principal of the reputed Abashaheb Garware College has resigned to allegedly avoid an inquiry into allegations of sexual misbehaviour against him. Bhong allegedly used to send lewd text messages to his victims and was infamous for his approach to women.

Abashaheb Garware College
Some staffers of the Abasaheb Garware College are furious at the college authorities for taking precautions to ensure that Dr Gautam Bhong’s misconduct is not exposed

College authorities have, however, maintained so much secrecy on the matter that even most of the college staffers are unaware about the exact reason behind Bhong’s unceremonious exit.

Dr Gautam Bhong
Dr Gautam Bhong

What makes Bhong’s case all the more serious is that, besides being associated with the Garware College since the past 28 years, he was also the dean of mental, moral and social science faculty of the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) - a post he ceased to hold after resigning from the college. The college management admitted that there is a possibility that his “misbehaviour” may not have been restricted to the college campus alone, but may have extended to the university campus and even to other affiliated colleges.

Anil Valsangkar, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Maharashtra Education Society (MES), which administers the Abasaheb Garware College, was initially reluctant to share any details about Bhong’s abrupt exit. But after he realised that the information had already been leaked, he confirmed to mid-day that misbehaviour with women was the sole reason behind it.

“After receiving some complaints about misbehaviour against Bhong, the management asked him for a clarification. Being a granted college, there is a procedure in place for setting up an inquiry against anyone. But, before the inquiry could commence, Bhong himself tendered his resignation last week, which we immediately accepted,” Valsangkar said.

The college inquiry would not have been the first time that Bhong’s character would come under the scanner. In March this year, a student studying in MES’s Night College had registered a police complaint against Bhong, who had six years left in his service.

“One of the male students had lodged a police complaint alleging Bhong had misbehaved with girls and the Deccan police had carried out a thorough investigation. After that incident, we had taken the charge of Night College principal away from Bhong,” Valsangkar informed.

Asked about the nature of complaints received against Bhong, he said, “We had come to know that he misbehaved with some girls. Till now, we have not received any direct complaint from any of the girls. But, as he was also a dean at SPPU, his role as an academician was wider and hence the college would have had no control over any misconduct by him outside the campus.”

‘Let off easy’
Staff at the college say Bhong made many women working under him feel unsafe. “No woman felt safe while working under Bhong. He was infamous for the way he stared at women,” said a female staffer. Another source said, “He also sent lewd text messages to the victims, which gave them evidence and finally landed him in trouble.”

Though many employees of the college are still unaware of the reasons behind Bhong’s exit, those who know about his misbehaviour are furious at the college authorities for taking precautions to ensure that Bhong’s misconduct is not exposed.
“I don’t understand why the college is taking so many efforts to hide this. Ideally, the management should come forward, talk to the media and send out the clear message that stern action awaits all those who indulge in such heinous acts,” said a female staffer.

When mid-day contacted Shrikant Gupta, the principal of Abasaheb Garware College, he refused to give details of Bhong’s case and only said, “The college management immediately accepted his resignation last week.”

The other side

When mid-day contacted Bhong, he said, "Due to some personal reasons, I resigned from the post. I don't have any complaints against the college management."

Appeal to victims
MES’s CEO Anil Valsangkar appealed to female students from Abasheb Garawre College and the institute's Night College to come forward and complain if they had been victims of misbehaviour at the hands of Dr Gautam Bhong. “As Bhong is no longer associated with college, there is a possibility that more girls will gather the courage to file complaints against him. If that happens, we will definitely initiate a separate inquiry and take action against Bhong,” Valsangkar said.

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