Sexual harassment charge returns to haunt VC of Assam’s Cultural University

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Guwahati, June 8: Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s plan to start a university in his constituency Majuli has received a setback due to an allegation of sexual harassment levelled by a former student against its newly appointed vice chancellor.
An FIR has been registered against Dr Dambarudhar Nath, a former professor of history at Dibrugarh University, who was recently made the first VC of Majuli Cultural University.
Alleging that Nath sexually harassed her in 2016, while she was a student of history at Dibrugarh University, the victim lodged a case against him at Sonari police station in Charaideo district this week.
“A case under section 354A of IPC on charge of physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures or a demand or request for sexual favours has been lodged against Nath. Investigations are underway,” said Dipanta Phukan, in-charge of Sonari police station.
According to the victim, the sexual harassment started in October, 2016, two months after she joined Dibrugarh University to pursue her masters.
“He used to call me several times during the day at odd hours saying he will give me good marks and I will be able to complete M.Phil and PhD. from the university if I spent time with him in his cabin. This continued for nearly three weeks,” she said.
“Unable to bear it any longer, I abused him verbally. He responded by saying that he wanted to make love to me and even touched me inappropriately,” the victim added.
She filed a case against Nath on November 15, 2016 with the university’s registrar and a probe was initiated. But while the inquiry was on, Nath suddenly took voluntary retirement on November 30, 2016.
In April, 2017, the victim alleged, she was approached by a professor in the university to take back her complaint. ‘Fearing persecution’ if she continued her studies there, the victim said she left the university in May 2017. “Because of him, I lost one year of my studies and suffered tremendous trauma. After my complaint didn’t yield any result, I pursued the matter at different levels. I decided to file the FIR after I completed my final exams from another university last month”.
An audio tape of an alleged telephone conversation between Nath and the victim, purportedly recorded on the girl’s phone three days after she filed her complaint, has been released recently by the victim.
In it, a male voice is heard asking the girl to save him and pleads that he is willing to fall at her feet and seek forgiveness as he might lose his job because of the complaint.
“It (the complaint) is baseless and a conspiracy. It is being done with mala fide intent. I am planning to initiate legal steps,” Nath told a local news channel few days back.
But when HT got in touch with him on Saturday, he refused to say anything on the issue.
“I am travelling right now and won’t like to comment anything about the case. I will do so at an appropriate time,” Nath said.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress has accused the BJP-led state government of failing the victim by appointing Nath as the VC of Majuli Cultural University.
“It is surprising the government appointed Nath. I am sure they were aware of the allegations against him. In the past 3 years, the victim wrote to the state government, UGC and other forums, but no one took notice,” said Angkita Dutta, vice-president of Assam Pradesh Youth Congress.
In July last year, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal laid the foundation stone of the state’s first cultural university to be built at cost of Rs 300 crore at Majuli, a hub of neo-Vaishnavite monasteries and the largest river island in the world. (Courtesy: HT)