The researcher who was victimised by the institute for filing a sexual harassment complaint wishes to know if the climate scientist was sacked
Days after TERI terminated its contract with environmen talist RK Pachauri, accused of sexually harassing a 29 year-old researcher, the victim has demanded a clarification from the institute on whether Pachauri was sacked or was allowed “the honour of stepping down“.The research scholar is the first who spoke out against Pachuari; later, at least two more women have come forward with similar allegations against him.

“The exit or sacking of the accused is something that should have happened long ago. Such events measures only go on to show that the TERI general council -let alone taking a stand -is unable to take a decision with this regard. They ought to clarify if they have sacked him or allowed him the honour of ‘stepping down.’ Yet again, they are mute on the issue,“ the victim told Mirror.

On April 18, TERI’s general council decided to terminate Pachauri’s services even though as TERI maintains his contract was till 2017. Pachauri himself though has maintained that his term ended on March 31, 2016, and he has moved on to pursue other interests.

It all started in February last year when the victim lodged a 33-page complaint with Lodhi Colony police station against Pachauri detailing the ordeal she had to undergo from September 2013 when she joined him.

The statement given by the complainant to the police under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that a day before she was to officially join Pachauri’s office, she allegedly received an SMS from him (on September 3, 2013) that read: “From now onwards I shall call you LIFE: Lovely Inspiration of Excessive Fondness.“

Shortly after that, she started receiving sexually-loaded jokes and poems from Pachauri on a daily basis.

“I have no words to describe the entire ordeal as I would have never imagined that something like this could happen to a human being or that someone befitting the accused would exist on our planet. I would go home feeling mentally exhausted, feeling completely empty and would feel helpless on a regular basis in shirking him off,“ she said.

It took her time to gather courage to raise her voice. Finally, it was her father’s advice that remaining silent is as good as being a partner in crime that helped her to take on the toughest legal battle of recent times.

In her petition to High Court, the victim has detailed the hostile environment she faced when she complained to TERI’s Internal Complaints Committee. The ICC head Ranjana Saikia heard the victim out patiently. But there were members who were hostile and passed snide remarks. One of them -human resource chief VK Agarwal -told her that the world at large will think that this is a case of an affair gone awry.Saikia resigned last September from TERI, though sources in the institute vouch that she was forced to do so.

The victim kept at her resolve to get justice, fighting it out for nine months while remaining still with TERI. In August, she even wrote a letter to Prime Minister requesting intervention. In November, she finally resigned from the organisation. Her petition to the High Court also details how many of her colleagues who were friendly with her refused to testify in front of the ICC. And those who stood by her were singled out within the organisation, and grilled for several hours by senior management.

In January this year, a male researcher at TERI, a former colleague of the victim, filed a police complaint alleging pressure from senior officials at the institute to arrange for an outof-court settlement of the case. According to the male scholar’s complaint, one of the four top TERI officials who “coaxed and cajoled“ him to “persuade“ the woman complainant for an out-of-court settlement was a woman. The woman official allegedly told the researcher in a “pa tronising tone“ to ask his “lady friend“ to “settle it out of court as there is nothing more left to achieve“.

“I got to know who my friends were and who were not. During this period many strangers have reached out to me to help me with the case and lend me support,“ she says.

In the last one year, she has seen it all; a key inspector dealing with the case was shunted out; in February Pachauri was promoted as vice chairman; and a piece in UK’s The Guardian raised questions about her.

“Never did I ever feel the urge to give up. There was (still is) just so much going on and I was very busy keeping track of my cases, handling media queries, keeping in touch with the police, meeting lawyers and also deal with other unpleasant aspects involving this battle. You could say that I had no time to consider the thought of giving up nor did such a thought ever cross my mind,“ she says.

Rather than sitting at home the researcher is back at work and she says no one has the time to pass snide remarks or talk about the case. “It is important to continue working. It has not been easy but one must keep at it. Like I said, there is nothing that will be able to tell my mind to give up,“ she says.

Delhi Police filed chargesheet on March 1 this year and the case will come up for hearing soon in court. “I hope that others, both men and women, find courage and a conscience to speak out against injustice and support those who do choose to speak out. I hope that people do not look at TERI as a test case but as an example of what one must not do.“