A Dalit professor at the Government Arts College in Tamil Nadu’s Ooty has alleged caste and gender based discrimination at the workplace after she accused a colleague of sexual harassment. Praveena Devi says she has been facing a hostile work environment, with several of her colleagues who belong to the same caste as her harasser Dharmalingam, running a campaign against her at the college. She got a stay from the Madras High Court on a transfer order given in September this year; despite this, other teachers at the college created a ruckus to stop her from taking classes, she has alleged.
Praveena, who teaches in the English department at the Government Arts College in Ooty, filed a sexual harassment complaint in February this year against her colleague, Dharmalingam from the Tamil department. Dharmalingam belongs to the Badaga caste and was found guilty of sexual harassment by the Internal Committee (IC) of the college. Praveena was at an inspection along with Dharmalingam and the then college principal Eswaramoorthy — who also belongs to the Badaga community — when Dharmalingam allegedly made sexually coloured remarks against her and commented on her sex life.
When she raised the issue with the principal Eswaramoorthy on February 24, the day after the incident, “He accepted that what Dharmalingam had done was wrong and that he would notify the IC against sexual harassment regarding my complaint,” Praveena told TNM. Praveena said that on February 25, Eswaramoorthy informed her over a phone call that he received an apology letter from Dharmalingam and would forward a copy of it to the IC and to her after he returned to college from his vacation.
But on February 28 Praveena learned from the IC head A Lourdu Mary that no such notification nor an apology letter had been sent. When Praveena asked Eswaramoorthy regarding this, he said oral complaints cannot be forwarded to the IC and asked her to give a written complaint. He also refused to give the apology letter he claimed to have received from Dharmalingam, to attach to her complaint. On March 2, Praveena filed a written complaint, which was forwarded to the IC. On March 10, the IC inquired into the incident with Praveena and Dharmalingam.
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