The Inside Story
NEW DELHI: Pavitra Bhardwaj (40), who tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire in front of Delhi Secretariat, succumbed to her injuries on Monday morning.

Pavitra, who was dismissed from the position of laboratory attendant at BR Ambedkar College in 2012, had alleged repeated sexual harassment by college principal, GK Arora.

Prior to her dismissal Bhardwaj had repeatedly filed sexual harassment complaints against the college principal in 2009.

However, the apex committee of the university ruled in favour of Arora.

Her death prompted protests by teachers and students of the college who demanded that the college principal should step down until a probe is on in this case.

The demonstrators also accused Delhi Police of shoddy investigation in the case, claiming that no action has been taken against the principal and another employee of the college whom she had named in her suicide note.

The woman was sacked from the college two years ago. Police had filed a case of suicide in this case. "We are waiting the postmortem report in the case. Meanwhile, we are questioning the principal and other people in the case," said deputy commissioner of police (Central) Alok Kumar.

The relatives of the woman said that Bhardwaj had filed complaints against the college principal first with an anti-sexual harassment committee and then with the apex committee of the university, both of which had given clean chit to Arora. They demanded immediate arrest of the principal.

"Nobody from the government or the education department visited her. The principal is being shielded. He should be arrested and only then a fair inquiry is possible in the case," alleged Bhardwaj's brother Sanjeev.

BJP leader Vijay Jolly and former Delhi Mayor Arti Mehra, who had met the victim on Sunday, had also questioned why the Delhi chief minister and the education minister had not cared to visit the victim.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of National Commission for Woman Mamta Sharma said if sexual harassment is taking place in schools and colleges, then it is very unfortunate.

"The case has not yet been reported to us. I will get it probed once it comes to us," she said.

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Probe into harassment starts after suicide

New Delhi, Oct. 9: Pavitra Bharadwaj’s fight for justice has just begun. After her suicide.

For four years, the 40-year-old lab assistant in a Delhi University college had knocked on every door with her complaint of sexual harassment against her college principal. Last year, she lost her job after two internal complaints committees gave the accused a clean chit.

Last week, she set herself on fire.

Today, the National Commission for Women (NCW), which Bharadwaj had approached four years ago, took the first step towards probing her allegations against G.K. Arora, the principal of BR Ambedkar College, and another employee.

It met Delhi University vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh, Delhi State Commission for Women chairperson Barkha Singh, Delhi police commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi and additional commissioner (North-East) V.V. Chaudhary to investigate the allegations and prepare a report.

In the past four years, Bharadwaj had approached all these officials at some point or the other.

“She had come to us in 2009, but at that point her case was purely service related. We asked her to approach the internal committee of the university to address her grievances,” said NCW member Nirmala Sawant Prabhavalkar, who is part of the committee probing the circumstances that led to the suicide.

“We have found out that she approached the Delhi Commission for Women and Delhi police. Today, we spoke to all those involved and we will submit our report soon. I believe there must have been something going on for her to take such an extreme step.”

Arora, who had earlier denied the allegation, was not available for comment.

The case dates back to 2009 when Bharadwaj, a laboratory assistant in the geography department of BR Ambedkar College, accused Arora and another employee of sexual harassment.

A college complaints committee and a higher panel later exonerated both. In 2012, Arora sacked her.

Aditya N. Mishra, former president of the Delhi University Teacher’s Association, said Bharadwaj, an alumnus of Ambedkar College, joined the institution in 2005.

“Problems started when the principal joined in 2007. She repeatedly complained to the authorities and even approached me to take up the matter. Since 2009, matters became worse and she approached everyone from the NCW, DCW, the chief minister and her last complaint was to the vice-chancellor of Delhi University. In her letter, which she wrote days before she set herself on fire, she has detailed how Arora asked her for sexual favours,” said Mishra, who today recorded his statement with the NCW.

Sources familiar with the case said Bharadwaj had written some 20 letters complaining about the harassment, including one that she addressed to Delhi’s lieutenant-governor.

Last week, she set herself on fire in front of the secretariat. Admitted to hospital with 90 per cent burns, she died on October 6 — months after a law to protect working women came into force.

But by the time Parliament passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill this April, Bharadwaj had lost her job.

Police sources said they found a note in which Bharadwaj blamed Arora and the other employee for being forced to take the extreme step.

Bharadwaj left behind an eight-year-old son. Her husband is a head constable with Delhi police.

Her death prompted protests by teachers and students who said Arora shouldn’t hold charge as principal till the probe was on. “The situation in Delhi University is like a bomb waiting to explode. Failure to fix responsibility and take urgent systemic corrective measures can lead to an irretrievable breakdown of all that has been good about our university,” said teachers’ union president Nandita Narain.

Sources, however, said that in his statement to the NCW today, vice-chancellor Singh had made it clear that Arora would not be suspended pending the investigation.

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Former DU lab assistant, who alleged sexual harassment by Ambedkar College principal, succumbs to burn injuries

Pavitra Bhardwaj, a former Ambedkar College lab attendant who tried to immolate herself outside the Delhi CM's Office, has succumbed to her burn injuries on Monday.

She was allegedly being sexually harassed by a college principal.

The woman sustained 95 per cent burn injuries and was battling for life at LNJP Hospital.

"Pavitra Bhardwaj died at the LNJP (Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan) Hospital this (Monday) morning," a police officer said.

She had filed complaints of sexual harassment with the office of the Lieutenant Governor, Chief Minister's Office, Delhi Police and Delhi University. However, no action was taken.

The woman's husband is a head constable in Delhi Police.

In her plea, she said the college principal was sexually harassing her for four years and had even threatened to kill her son.

Police sources say that in her testimony before the sub-divisional magistrate, she alleged that the principal was asking for sexual favours and after she filed a complaint, she was fired for misconduct.

However, Ambedkar College principal in a statement denied the charges and said he was being framed.

Bhardwaj was sacked from the college in 2009, police said.

- with IANS inputs

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