‘Shamelessness abounds!’ Woman who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment responds to his promotion

'Shamelessness abounds!' Woman who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment responds to his promotion
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On Monday, RK Pachauri, the former head of The Energy and Resources Institute or TERI, was promoted as the organisation’s executive vice chairman, even as he faces sexual harassment charges from a former colleague.

Pachauri is the first person to hold the newly created position of vice chairman, reportedThe Indian Express. His new job was announced the day TERI’s new director general, Ajay Mathur, took charge from him.

Last February, a junior colleague had accused Pachuri of sexual harassment and he was asked to go on leave. In May, an internal committee report found him guilty of misusing his position and breaking the norms of the organisation’s sexual harassment policy. The investigating committee also noted that the 29-year-old complainant’s health had been “adversely affected” because of the stress caused by Pachauri’s conduct.

But Pachuri was back in the office in July, after a court stayed the report.

The woman later resigned from TERI.

Since charges were filed in February, other women have also spoken up, recounting how they were harassed by Pachauri over the years. They painted a picture of a repeat offender who used his power to enforce silence on his victims and win immunity for his actions.

On Tuesday, the woman released this open letter.

Shamelessness abounds! The news of promotion of a man who stands booked on charges of sexual harassment at a workplace, stalking and criminal intimidation by the country’s who’s who makes my flesh crawl.

While a prayer lay in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi seeking suspension of RK Pachauri (in compliance with the basics of the SH [Sexual Harassment] act so that my rights to work are unaffected), TERI’s Governing Council held a meeting around the same time because the man was looking to maintain his foothold in TERI. It was around 03 Oct, 2015, that I first heard of this from some current and former colleagues. I was sceptical in thinking that the organisation would not pour cheap, third rated oil to the existing smouldering fire.

I was so wrong!

I was then made aware that the esteemed Governing Council of TERI is due to meet again in the same month and this time, as per some genuine well-wishers, the plan was to throw mud on me as well as the entire process and thus facilitate a promotion for RK Pachauri. The Governing Council of TERI met twice within a month to address insecurities of RK Pachauri and could not even hold a meeting over my complaint or my letter to them (dated 03 April, 2015) nor could they meet to discuss the ICC [internal complaints committee] report presented on 19 May, 2015. They had the time and the will to convene two board meetings in a span of one month. This was very unheard of considering that TERI GC would only meet once every year per Rules and Regulations of TERI.

For a research organisation, priority was given to meetings held by Senior Directors and Area Convenors to corner my colleagues, to get them to have me agree on a reconciliation, saying things like “Ask your lady friend to settle out of court. That would be best for her as she has nothing more left to achieve.” Not a day passed without a message showing up on my mobile, warning me or bringing forth concerns. One told me: “We are hearing that ‘Victim’ has settled. I told them clearly that the complainant has not settled and she wouldn’t. But they don’t seem to believe me.” Another said: “They were asking me about your family background.” Yet another: “My computer is always watched by the IT Department because they know that I support you.”

The ICC was dissolved. The ICC president resigned from her job at the Institute. The external member of the ICC is a woman who has expertise in the said field and a novice was brought in as her replacement for matters of convenience. The current ICC has his people. TERI and RK Pachauri are inseparable.

Was I really hoping that the hostility would end? It only went from bad to worse.

The GC’s new candidate to lead TERI (into darkness) is in the middle of four court cases (yes, one ICC report snowballed into five court cases) and facing grave criminal charges. With such qualifications he is deemed fit to lead an organisation. If that was not enough, the Governing Council is considering giving him operational powers. Reason being, it is required for foreign funding.

Right, the act of persistence is best performed by a man who doesn’t understand meaning of the word “no”.

For someone in my position who has had zero support from the organisation, being made made privy to such developments was most disturbing. What in the world was I to expect and why would I risk more than what is lost already. Not just the Governing Council but others in TERI have shown where their conscience leans (if any). If quitting was not enough, TERI Media Executive went ahead and publicised information leading to my identity to the press. Those women who did not testify to the ICC were “rewarded” with unjust promotions in designations, projects and travel approvals (to name a few) and continued to remain quiet, remain involved.

I spoke up and was quarantined from work. Not allowed to resume work and no earnings for a long time. No money and a tainted Curriculum Vitae gave me sleepless nights. It was getting beyond my dignity to be associated with such an organisation and in the best of my interest, I quit. I felt most lighter in my mind and body on quitting TERI.

I deserved better.

I use this platform to further convey that the case stands as it is, I assure I will take it to its logical conclusion.

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No one knows when the Jammu and Kashmir government will be formed – but citizens no longer care

No one knows when the Jammu and Kashmir government will be formed – but citizens no longer care
Photo Credit: IANS
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It’s been almost a year since the Bharatiya Janata Party and the People’s Democratic Party came together to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir. The December 2014 Assembly elections threw up a hung house, with the PDP emerging the largest party ahead of the BJP. After 67 days of political poker, the parties finally struck a compromise, agreeing not to rake up their stated political positions and maintain a status quo on all controversial issues. Now, the two parties are it again.

The state has been without an elected government since the death of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the first week of January. His daughter, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, has delayed the formation of a government, indicating that she wants some “confidence-building measures” for the state from the BJP-ruled government at the Centre. It also wants the BJP to adhere to the Agenda of Alliance, the common minimum programme over which the parties had come together last year. On Monday, the BJP asked the PDP to take a final call on government formation before the Budget Session of Parliament on February 23.

As the deadlock continues, with the PDP trying to gain some semblance of control within the alliance and the BJP adamant on remaining in the driver’s seat, the Kashmiri people are seemingly tired of the games and have lost interest in the outcome. In fact, many have stopped watching altogether.

“It is a fixed match,” said Mohammad Iqbal Khan, a bank employee in Srinagar. “Who wants to watch a fixed match? It’s story whose end we already know. One can’t be fooled by the same trick twice and that too within a year. That would be a shame.”

Khan said he was a first-time voter in the 2014 Assembly elections, and regretted his decision after watching the political drama unfold over the next two months. During that election campaign, he said, the prevailing feeling was that the march of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP into Kashmir needed to be stopped.

“I fell for it, my older brother fell for it, and we voted for the PDP,” said Khan. “And when they allied with the BJP, it was shame to accept that we had been made complete fools. Now, they can marry the devil himself. It doesn’t matter.”

Losing the crowd

Khan’s indifference and disinterest about the government formation appears to be the common sentiment in Kashmir.

At the kandur waans – the bakeries – where the day begins for the typical Kashmiri, the political stalemate hardly evokes a response around the hearths where political gossip is usually the norm.

A man in his late forties waiting for his bread said that the black dog and the white dog are brothers, and only fools and the liars are deceived for the difference in the colour.

“What is the big deal about who will form the government?” he asked. “National Conference can form a government with the BJP, BJP can make government with PDP, they can both make government with Congress, or all of them could hug each other and trample on our lives. Isn’t that what has happened here all along?”

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he had never voted in his life and never would. Sitting cross-legged beside him was 51-year-old Rahman Malik, who admitted to voting for the PDP but now felt compelled not to look their way anymore.

“If it were up to me, I would send a plague their way,” he said. “I believed the PDP’s words when they said that they would fight for our dignity from India, from the Indian army, and I thought that maybe these parties would help us economically and change things politically as well. But Mufti joined the BJP to become the chief minister and did nothing at all.”

Malik said he wouldn’t know whom to vote for should fresh elections be held. “Maybe the National Conference this time,” he laughed.

Historical blunder?

A senior PDP leader and former cabinet minister argued that irrespective of whether the PDP or BJP emerged triumphant, democracy would be the winner. Another PDP leader compared the electoral politics in Kashmir to a game of musical chairs that they would like to keep playing as long it kept out an opposite force that threatened to stop the music and break the chairs.

There is a sound background to this rationale. After the rupture in the established political system in Kashmir following a popular armed uprising in 1989, the pro-India political parties gathered again in a decade’s time and cannily positioned themselves in between the pro-Independence, pro-Pakistan camp and the Indian political and military establishment.

From this seemingly middle ground in which they began to operate, the National Conference passed an Autonomy resolution in the state Assembly (which was summarily rejected without a discussion by New Delhi) and harped on Kashmir’s distinct identity and aspirations within the Indian Union.

The PDP went even further with a self-rule slogan by promising to make the borders irrelevant, creating a mechanism of joint control by India and Pakistan and a dual currency. They began to promise a kind of independence within the boundaries of India. And after a decade of war in Kashmir that witnessed innumerable atrocities, the middle path was sold as the respectable way out. It was touted by PDP loyalists as a case of “choosing the possible over the ideal”.

But last year, the PDP’s embrace of the BJP and its complete silence on the rhetoric that brought it to power has brought great disillusionment among people who had voted for the PDP. “Earlier I did feel that PDP was different than the NC, the Congress and the BJP, and that is why I had some hopes from the PDP, and not only did I vote for them but also campaigned for them in my extended family,” said Khurram Ahmad Handoo, who works at a pharmaceutical company. “But they joined the BJP once, they can join the BJP again, if not today then tomorrow.”

Handoo said that he wouldn’t vote again because he no longer saw the purpose of the exercise.

“What they are doing now is another game,” he said. “It is not for us but their own political space and fortune that the PDP is playing now, and now I am not interested in their lies. I swear that last year I was obsessed with whether or not they would join BJP and I would argue with everyone that they would not, but this time they don’t matter at all to me. In a way, I feel free.”

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India vs Sri Lanka: Boys in Blue aim to bolster credentials ahead of World T20

India vs Sri Lanka: Boys in Blue aim to bolster credentials ahead of World T20
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After the convincing 3-0 win in last month’s Twenty20 series in Australia, the home series against Sri Lanka that starts on Tuesday must seem like a mere formality for an Indian side high on confidence. However, if history suggests anything at all, this series will be anything but a stroll for the home side.

India have a 3-3 record against Sri Lanka in this format, but it is their World Cup record against the islanders that will prove worrisome for MS Dhoni’s men. Rewind to the 2014 World T20 final – it was Lasith Malinga’s men who broke their final hoodoo to triumph over Dhoni’s boys in Dhaka.

The Indians did not fare much better in the 2010 World T20 when they succumbed to a last-ball finish in Gros Islet, St. Lucia in a group stage match. Being played a mere month before the World T20, this series against the world’s No 3 T20 side is a good chance for the home side to prove their title credentials, especially considering that they have been drafted into a tough group alongside Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

For one man in particular, this series will be more about redemption than anything else. Yuvraj Singh endured a horror show against the Lankans in the 2014 final, eking out a 21-ball 11 during the most crucial part of the innings, leading to India sub-par total.

Back in the squad and having had a fairly decent series against Australia, the Punjab left-hander will look to settle scores once and for all. The 33-year-old looks like he has got a new lease of life but he will still have to perform to retain hopes of getting into the final World Cup T20 squad. Fail to do so, and no doubt, the vultures will start circling again.

Finding the right combination

India’s best player in Australia, Virat Kohli, has been given a well-deserved rest. This will give captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni the chance to tinker with his middle-order to find his best combination. Although Suresh Raina, Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni pick themselves in the squad based on past exploits and current form, India’s middle order still remains a worry with the finisher’s positions – numbers five, six and seven far from settled.

Shikhar Dhawan for one will be looking to cement his place in the final XI for the World Twenty20. The opener has had an up-and-down season so far. With Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and new boy Hardik Pandya all jostling for places, the competition is fierce.

Pawan Negi, the 23-year-old rookie who was selected for this series in place of Kohli, must be feeling confident after being sold for a whopping Rs 8.5 crore at the Indian Premier League auction on Saturday. Negi did well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, where he scored 173 runs for Delhi and bagged six wickets in nine matches. Rishi Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh Man and Umesh Yadav miss out, while Manish Pandey and Bhuvneshwar Kumar get a look in.

A return of two veterans

This will also be an intriguing tale of two returning 36-year-old pacers. While Ashish Nehra played all the three T20 matches against Australia, Dilhara Fernando will return to the Sri Lankan squad after almost two years on the back of his performances in the domestic Premier T20 tournament. Fernando finished as the third highest wicket-taker with 11 wickets at an economy rate of 8.40.

His experience will be key considering that Malinga and Mathews are out owing to injuries and the Lankans just lost a recent T20 series to New Zealand 2-0. Leading the side in Malinga’s absence will be Dinesh Chandimal. An injury to Tillakaratne Dilshan also means that wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella has been called up to the squad and most probably will play the first match.

One player to watch out for will be middle-order batsman Dasun Shanaka, who set the domestic T20 tournament alight with his performances. Spinner Ajantha Mendis still does not find a place despite a good show with the ball (12 wickets) in the same tournament.

In comparison with the World Twenty20 and the Asia Cup thereafter, this may look like a low-key series. But, Dhoni will not mind – it gives him an opportunity to play around with his team and figure out his winning combination. In many ways, this will be the perfect starter for the delectable main course that is coming up next month.

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Turkey’s academics pay heavy price for resisting Erdogan’s militarised politics

Turkey’s academics pay heavy price for resisting Erdogan’s militarised politics
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While the EU and the US have turned a blind eye to the Turkish government’s brutal clampdown in Kurdish regions, Turkish academics who have spoken out about the regime’s increasingly dictatorial policies have faced punishment and even imprisonment.

A petition published in early January by the Academicians for Peace initiative, criticising the Turkish state’s political and military attacks against the Kurdish people, raised a red flag with its signatories stating: “We will not be a party to this crime.” They wrote:

The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighborhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated.

In response, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately demanded that all institutions in Turkey take action: “Everyone who benefits from this state but is now an enemy of the state must be punished without further delay.”

Academics targeted

Following this, Turkish federal prosecutors have investigated 1,128 of the signatories with33 academics from three Turkish universities in Bolu, Kocaeli and Bursa being detained because of their alleged propaganda for a terrorist organisation and insulting the Turkish nation, state, government and institutions.

Turkey’s top higher education body, the Higher Education Board (YÖK), has called for university administrators to impose disciplinary sanctions against the academics. Subsequently, 109 academics from 42 Turkish universities were subjected to dismissal, discharge, suspension, termination and forced resignation.

A government-backed counter-petition, Academics Against Terror, has also been organised. The Grey Wolves, also known as Idealist Hearts, a formal youth organisation of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the Turkish parliament, has even marked the office doors of signatories and left written threats.

Despite this, immediately after the government’s response, the number of academics participating in the campaign increased from 1,128 to 4,491. There has also been a public reaction against the government’s tactics.

Within just two weeks, independent petition campaigns organised by a variety of civic and professional organisations have collected more than 60,000 signatories, and supporting statements have been released by 65 organisations that have millions of members across the country.

The original petition has also created much-needed international solidarity with more than 60 international institutions, organisations, leading academics and politicians issuing messages of support and ten international petition campaigns being organised worldwide.

The recent clampdown on academics characterises the scope of the new “counterterrorism” strategy of the Turkish state. This “new” doctrine is again promoting a military solution to the Kurdish question by concentrating state violence against the Kurds and supporters of Kurdish rights.

Political plotting

After a period of fragile negotiations with the hope of ending the decades-long conflict, the new doctrine has emerged since the June 2015 Turkish general elections, when Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win a majority in parliament for a single-party government.

The government introduced the strategy after the June elections in an attempt to win back the votes of Turkish nationalists in the MHP, a long standing ultra-nationalist political party, and the “borrowed votes” of Turkish dissidents who temporarily collaborated with the HDP, a pro-Kurdish and pro-minority political party.

The Turkish state is also using the Syrian refugee crisis and military intervention against the so-called Islamic State to gain international support from the EU and the US.

In line with the “new” doctrine, the ongoing ceasefire agreement and peace negotiations between the Turkish state and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) were officially suspended in July, with a state of emergency and curfew declared in Kurdish territories by the AKP government.

According to a report in Turkish by the Human Rights Association in Turkey, between June and November, 602 people (including 41 children) were killed, 1,300 people were injured, 1,004 people were jailed and 5,713 people were taken into custody during the military operations in Kurdish towns. There were also 134 people killed and 564 injured in two suicide bombings in Suruç and Ankara.

This campaign seemed to pay off for the AKP, with a significant increase in support within the six-month period. The AKP won 49.50% in a second parliamentary election called on November 1 2015, returning their single party majority.

Entrenching positions

It seems that Turkey’s “new” anti-Kurdish doctrine is a strategic, precautionary manoeuvre to maintain the popularity of Erdoğan’s regime. The government is aiming to avoid potential resistance, such as that experienced in the Gezi Park uprising in 2013, which unified a wide range of dissidents including leftists, Turkish nationalists, capitalists from the upper classes and religious groups.

Through its anti-Kurd strategy, the government is simultaneously deepening localised political and social tensions in Kurdish regions and reunifying right-wing nationalist civil society and political organisations under the flag of Turkish chauvinism.

In this light, the petition by Academicians for Peace is not only a revolt against the government’s Kurdish policy, but also a very effective swipe at the crucial point of the “new” strategy. It draws academics, students, intellectuals and other urban professionals together throughout the country, sending a wake-up call to the international public that Erdoğan’s new political and military strategy cannot be tolerated.

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