Nearly a thousand woman students protested last night at a college near Chennai after a student was allegedly sexually harassed in the hostel by a worker. A second-year undergraduate student at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Kancheepuram district said she was sexually harassed by a male worker in the hostel lift on Thursday afternoon.
"The male gardener masturbated at her in the lift. She had pressed the 4th floor button and he, the 6th. But the man moved the lift to the 8th floor. He did not let her go until she screamed," a woman student told NDTV.
Videos shared by students on campus show hundreds of students pushing a barricade and marching in the campus, raising slogans. Another video shows women students breaking open the gates of the hostel block. The hostel gates were allegedly locked to keep the students in.
"University officials blame it on our dressing, calling it inappropriate. They do not take our complaints seriously. In the past too, there have been instances of male workers peeping into our rooms, intruding into our privacy," a student leader said.
SRM University Vice Chancellor denied the allegations of inaction and said the administration would look into the complaint. "Students are discussing with us. Whatever the matter is, it will be taken care of. If there is a matter, it will be inquired," Mr Sancheti told news agency PTI. In a video of his meeting with the protesting students, he is seen telling a girl, "Don't try to make an issue out of nothing".
Though the hostel warden told NDTV that the gardener has been arrested, the police denied this and said they are yet to receive any formal complaint.
"Our enquiry reveals that the 38-year-old male toilet cleaner, a new appointee, was accompanied by two woman workers and he got confused operating the lift," a Kancheepuram police officer told NDTV. The officer indicated that the allegation seems to be a "ploy" to get today's exams cancelled.
"Their last exam was originally on Thursday but due to rain, they were postponed to Friday and many had already booked flight and train tickets to leave home on Friday for vacation," the officer said.