Gender

Clouds Darken on the Horizon for Pachauri as Second Woman Alleges Harassment

R.K. Pachauri. Credit: Mat McDermott/Flickr CC 2.0

R.K. Pachauri. Credit: Mat McDermott/Flickr CC 2.0

New Delhi: On the eve of the Delhi high court’s hearing on a case of sexual harassment filed by a former TERI researcher of against former UN climate panel chief RK Pachauri, claims made by a second woman alleging sexual harassment by him is all set to give a fresh new twist to the case.

According to Vrinda Grover, lawyer of the second complainant and a noted women’s rights activist, the woman had worked with Pachauri at TERI for a year in 2003 and had been subjected to several instances of sexual harassment by him.

On being asked why the woman in question had not come out in public with her complaints before, Grover said “When my client saw the hardship that the first complainant of sexual harassment was undergoing and the way the abuser has been rewarded and reinstated for committing a serious crime, she lost all hope of justice and struggled to cope but now with the news of Pachauri’s recent elevation to an important position in TERI and the first victim’s enraged reactions to this elevation, my client decided to let people know her story as well.”

Reacting to the news of a possible second victim, Prashant Mendiratta, lawyer of the first complainant in the sexual harassment case against Pachauri said, “I am very hopeful that with the disclosure of the second woman, more cases against Pachauri will come out in public. To get the truth out – and this will only happen with Pachauri’s judicial custody – I am urging the court to take steps.”

Meanwhile there is news emerging that students of TERI University – of which Pachauri is still the chancellor – are planning to send a petition to the university’s management refusing to accept their diplomas for 2014-2015 from him at their convocation ceremony in March. There are about 200 students for PG Diploma courses with the university for the academic session of 2014-2015 and a sizeable number of students have signed the petition.

Controversial appointment

Meanwhile, the All India Democratic Women’s Association in a press statement has registered its ‘shock and protest’ against TERI’s decision to appoint Pachauri to the post of executive vice-chairman in spite of the sexual harassment case pending against him in court. “Now TERI has a new DG, but the reinstallation of  Pachauri, an extremely influential person, to the newly-created post, at a moment when the investigation is incomplete and the hearing to take place in the Delhi high court, is likely to prejudice the case and intimidate the complainant who is a young woman who had been working in the same institution”, AIDWA said. The organisation is demanding  “that all efforts to reinstate Pachauri be put on hold until the court gives its verdict, so that the complainant may have a fair hearing and proper measures for ensuring justice may be taken’.

Repeated calls to RK Pachauri’s counsel Ashish Dixi went unanswered.


 

The following is the text of a statement made by the second woman who has now come forward to allege she was sexually harassed by R.K. Pachauri. The statement was released to the media by her lawyers. The Wire will report the response of Pachauri’s lawyers to her allegations when it is available.

Outrageous Move by TERI Board

India’s pathetic record on crime against women has touched an abyss. R. K. Pachauri, a serial sexual harasser, who should have been punished by now has actually been rewarded with a new and higher position! This is a mockery of the laws of our country and of the struggles of the complainant’s long and difficult struggles. It is yet another revelation of the degree of impunity enjoyed by elite men, with wholesome and overt support of their peers and friends in high places. The TERI Board is answerable to all of us.

I learnt about the FIR against Mr. R. K. Pachauri through news reports in the media. This of course did not surprise me since I had been sexually harassed by him and had seen him behave extremely indecently with other women at TERI too. However, what totally shocked me was when Mr. Pachauri claimed that his computer/lap­top had been hacked, implying that it was not him who had harassed the complainant but that the charges against him were part of a ploy or a conspiracy against him. This is when I decided to speak up immediately.

I contacted my counsel Vrinda Grover who met with the DCP Prem Nath on 26th February 2015. Vrinda Grover sent a follow­up letter on 4 March 2015 to him and also a letter to the Police Commissioner on 7 April 2015. All this was done so that I could get my statement recorded. However, till date I have not heard from the police.

I joined TERI in 2003 and worked there for over a year.
Mr. R. K. Pachauri was the Director General of TERI during this period, and the editor of the TERI

magazine. My job description required me to on occasion interact with him in person. He would often phone me himself or have his secretary call for me.

From this point onwards, until I quit TERI, my sexual harassment by Mr. R. K. Pachauri increased.

Mr. R. K. Pachauri would use the excuse of work assignments to repeatedly call me to his office room, even though there was no real work that he needed to discuss. This made me feel very uncomfortable and I used to try to dodge some meetings or ask my colleagues to go for the meetings.

Soon after I joined TERI and began interacting with Mr. R.K. Pachauri, he had renamed me with a sexually suggestive nickname “xxxx”. He said that this was a derivative of my official name and suited me far better. I recall that he said things like xxxx is sweet, and also how attractive flowers attract bees etc. He was clearly making sexually loaded remarks. These comments were completely unwelcome and made me feel very uncomfortable. While I felt anxious about his motives, I also hoped that he would not continue behaving in this manner. I would repeatedly request him to not use that term for me, but he continued addressing me via the nickname though only in private when he called me to his room or phoned me up, so that no third person heard him address me in this sexually suggestive manner.

On one occasion, when he had called me to his sixth floor office room to discuss work, he told me that he could lift hefty and heavy women, and so lifting me would not be a problem for him. I found his boasting extremely disrespectful towards women working at TERI. At another time, he talked about how physically fit he was, how he played cricket with young men, how he could walk up the steps of TERI’s six floor building etc. It was clear that by stating all this he was communicating to me, that despite his age he was physically strong and virile.

One day when I was on leave from work because of ill­health, he called me on my mobile number to ask why I was not in office. When I told him that I was suffering from migraine, he said, “H um bahut achhi champi kartein hain…aap chahein to kar sakte hain (I give very good head massage…if you want I can give you a massage).. It had become evident to me that the man, as old as my father, was looking for opportunities to be alone with me and make physical contact. This made me feel very disgusted. I remember sharing this incident with a colleague.

Mr.R. K. Pachauri once told me that I needed to attend a conference with him at a hotel in New Delhi because he would like me to draft a press note or something like that. He insisted that I come to the office in the morning and travel with him in his car to the hotel instead of reaching thehotel directly. This made me suspect his intention because by that point he had already been misbehaving and acting in an over­friendly manner with sexual overtones. I decided to not go with him in his car because of my discomfort and instead drove to the hotel by myself in my car. There, I realized that I was not required for drafting any note. Yet again, I realized that the conference was simply an excuse and that I had been asked to attend it only to give him company on the way to the conference

in his car, something that I had managed to avoid. I felt demeaned as an individual, a woman and as a professional.

Mr. R. K. Pachauri used to also call me on my personal mobile number once or twice a week during non­office hours and holidays to ask what I was doing, he would make personal inquiries about my availability and keep requesting me to join him for dinner or wine.

On several occasions Mr. R.K.Pachauri would ask me intrusive questions about my personal life, about when my husband was going to be out of town, and how I spent my weekends. He would pass comments about the clothes I was wearing, asking me whether my husband gave me a particular dress etc. He made constant attempts to meet me socially outside the office.

All this behaviour was clearly not appropriate to his position at the workplace and comprises sexual harassment as it caused me grave apprehension and discomfort. Once, he described to me either his house, perhaps a farmhouse that he said opens up to a garden or a field. He said this while handing me a spiral bound copy of a “manuscript”. He told me that he had been working on a novel and would like me to read and make suggestions before he handed it to the publisher. He asked me to not share the manuscript with anyone and also not tell anyone that he had asked me to work on it. He suggested that I could use his house/farmhouse to read in seclusion, and that he would like to join me for discussions etc. He suggested we meet after work to discuss the novel. I told him that I would not go to his house and I found such suggestions by him very disturbing and unprofessional.

When I thumbed through the manuscript, I came across graphic descriptions of sex. I was horrified and angry that he gave something of this nature to a young female employee who was younger than his children. I did notice that the main character of this novel was a scientist. It was much later, after I had quit TERI, that the novel “Return to Almora” got published. I did not read the novel but the reviews spoke of a “steamy” story, reminding me of the anguish I had experienced while I was working at TERI.

On another occasion when I was in his office room because he had asked me to see him, he completely against my wishes forcibly held and kissed me on my face just as I was leaving the room, I was shocked and very upset and left his office immediately.

He would call me to his room on the pretext of discussing work, but often the conversation about work was very brief and then he would then make attempts to come close to my body or hold my hand. Once he requested me to be in his office at 8 A.M. There were no other employees at that time of the day, especially on his floor. He asked me to sit in his chair and work on what he had written on his desktop. I sat on his chair and started working. He came and stood right behind me, very close to me. It made me feel very uncomfortable, and my body froze as I was afraid of what he might do next. Soon, he said that my hair was fragrant. Since he is a very tall man, I suspected that he bent down towards me to smell my hair. My hair was also slightly wet that time and he said that I look beautiful with wet hair. This made me angry and I got up to leave the room. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said something, trying to sound apologetic and make me stay. I rushed out of the room saying that I had some urgent work to do. D espite having communicated to him repeatedly that I did not like any of his sexual advances, he continued to make verbal and physical sexual advances towards me.

This caused me worry and affected my ability to carry on working at TERI. Due to R.K.Pachauri’s misconduct, and sexual advances I had started to look out for opportunities elsewhere.

On another occasion, he called me to his room to discuss some work but picked up a coffee­table book that was lying on his table. He thumbed through the pages of what seemed like an architectural design catalogue with swimming pools and gardens. I was still waiting for what he was going to do with it. What followed was shocking: he promised to get me a certain Foundation’s pool membership if I would join him for swimming on the weekends. I told him clearly that neither did I seek or accept favours, and nor was I interested in any membership or swimming with him.

I remember suggesting to some colleagues, including the women who comprised the H.R. team, about taking some action against Mr. R. K. Pachauri. Seeing that the women at H.R. were themselves subjected to such harassment from Mr. R. K. Pachauri did not instill much confidence in the exercise but I thought that this way, at least our action would go on record. Despite the fact that the Vishaka Guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court several years prior to these incidents, neither the H.R. Department nor the management at TERI had informed me or any of the other employees about any mechanism, such as the ICC, to deal with matters of sexual harassment at the workplace. The issue of sexual harassment at the workplace was not discussed at TERI and

employees and staff had never been informed about what they could do in case they faced sexual harassment at TERI.

Having mustered some courage, I complained to Commodore Joshi, the then Director, Administration, Services and TERI Press, who was also a close aide of Mr. R.K.Pachauri. He refused to believe me, saying that I may have misread Mr.R.K.Pachauri’s warmth, that such things had never been reported, and requested me to end the matter there and started to show me a meditative, self­help magazine that he subscribed to (if I remember correctly the magazine was called “Life Positive”).

When Mr. R.K.Pachauri saw my resignation letter, he threatened that from the airport to the city I was going to, he had friends everywhere and that he would see how I would leave his employment.


In an earlier version of this article, the court where the sexual harassment case is to be heard on February 11, 2016 was incorrectly described as the Supreme Court