Inaction in sexual harassment allegations against Bhattachan concerns international academics

- Bhrikuti Rai, Kathmandu

Feb 18, 2019-

The Britain-Nepal Academic Council has issued a statement raising concerns about the lack of investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against retired Tribhuvan University lecturer Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan.

“The Britain-Nepal Academic Council (BNAC) is deeply concerned to hear about the lack of any investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct levelled against a leading retired academic in Tribhuvan University, and about the lack of appropriate internal mechanisms of redress within the university,” the statement read. The BNAC, founded in 2000 at the University of Oxford, is an umbrella group of senior British and Nepali academics based in the United Kingdom.

Earlier last month, the Post reported how Bhattachan, a senior lecturer, had harassed a number of students from the University’s Department of Sociology for years.

The allegations against Bhattachan, an influential academic and indigenous rights activist, ranged from him making lewd remarks to inappropriately touching them during advisory sessions at his residence.

The BNAC statement, which stops short of naming Bhattachan, urges Tribhuvan University and Nepal’s other universities to take initiatives to introduce policies and codes of conduct to ensure a safe working environment, and “not to rely solely on the law of the land”.

In an interview with the Post in January, TU Vice-chancellor Tirtha Raj Khaniya had said that the university’s hands were tied, since the former students had failed to register a complaint while Bhattachan was still working at the university.

Speaking to the Post, TU Rector Sudha Tripathi said she was unaware of the BNAC statement but agreed that there was the need for a special mechanism to deal with these concerns.

However, Tripathi, reiterating Khaniya’s sentiment, said that unless the survivors come forward with complaints, there was little the administration could do.

“If we start following up on everything the media writes about, we won’t have time to do anything else,” said Tripathi.

A few female professors at TU had met with her to talk about the concerns they had after the story was published, said Tripathi, but that no further discussion had taken place. TU’s Department of Sociology had also raised the issue of sexual harassment in a departmental meeting on January 28, after the Post’s report. The meeting had decided to put together a code of conduct for its teachers to avoid similar incidents in the future and establish a grievance mechanism to deal with sexual harassment and misconduct in the department. “We had to bring it up in our meeting agenda because the allegations were against a retired lecturer from our department,” said Pramod Bhatta, a lecturer at the sociology department.

The department, however, came to the conclusion that it was up to the university administration to take any further steps since Bhattachan had retired from the university in 2015.

Published: 18-02-2019 10:33

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