Professor accused of sexual harassment used to flaunt political clout

April 19th, 2009 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, April 19 (IANS) The Goa University (GU) professor in the midst of a sexual harassment controversy, used to threaten female students with his political clout, one of the complainants has told the committee appointed to probe the charges.
The story of sleaze in the state’s only varsity has managed to grab sizeable news-space in Goa, which goes to the polls on April 23. The political science department is virtually reeling under allegations of abuse against the head of department, Dr Aureliano Fernandes, followed by complaints and counter complaints of ragging by students in the first and second year Political Science masters classes.

“Dr Fernandes used to take us to his cabin and ask us questions about our clothes, comment on our figures and repeatedly tried to make physical contact,” a student who deposed before the official committee appointed to probe the sexual charges told IANS.

“When we did not co-operate, he used to say that several ministers in the Goa cabinet, including the education minister were his friends,” she said, adding that he would also threaten to fail them in their examinations, if they rejected his advances.

“One girl was in fact sexually abused by Dr Fernandes during a recent seminar on National Human Rights day in December. She has stopped attending college, ever since,” the student said.

Confirming the sexual abuse incident, GU registrar M.M. Sangodkar said that apart from a slew of sexual harassment complaints filed by the GU students, one student has also complained that Dr Fernandes sexually abused her.

“We have received a sexual abuse complaint. The complaint was received in mid March and the GU has appointed a committee to probe the matter,” Sangodkar said. “A total of six students from the second year masters Political Science batch have complained of sexual harassment. The sexual abuse complaint has, however, been filed by a first year political science student,” he said.

Incidentally, the girl students who filed the sexual harassment complaints against Fernandes, are the same ones who have been the target of three ragging complaints filed by the first year masters students.

“The ragging complaints are filed on the instructions of Dr Fernandes, who wants to pressurise us into withdrawing our charges,” one of the complainants against Dr Fernandes said.

Meanwhile, civil society organisation Utt Goenkara has threatened to hold a dharna against the university officials, for what they allege, is systematic harassment of a Goan academic by a lobby of non-Goan faculty members in the varsity.

“The sexual harassment case against Dr Fernandes is a hoax. We will take the GU officials to task for misrepresenting facts to the media and harassing one of the senior few Goan faculty members at the university,” the organisation’s spokesperson Jatin Naik told IANS.

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