In a fresh twist to the Kalakshetra sexual harassment controversy, in which assistant professor Hari Padman was arrested on Monday, April 3, his wife Divya Hari Padman filed a counter complaint with Chennai Police on Wednesday, April 5, alleging that her husband was framed, that he was arrested on the basis of a “false complaint”.
In her counter complaint, lodged with Chennai Police Commissioner Shankar Jiwal, the complainant Divya Hari Padman, who is also an employee of the Kalakshetra Foundation, sought an inquiry into the matter.
She alleged that the complaint of sexual harassment, brought against Hari Padman by students of Kalakshetra, was instigated by two of the teachers, Nirmala Nagarajan and Nandhini Nagarajan. She alleged that this was a case of professional jealousy as her husband Hari Padman had been praised by A Janardhanan, former principal of the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts.
Until his arrest, Hari Padman was a senior Bharatanatyam teacher at the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts and a renowned stage performer. One of his most famous roles was that of Hanuman, which he reprised in several theatrical productions staged by Kalakshetra artistes. He has a following among the Indian diaspora community in Singapore for his performance in Anjaneyam in Kalaa Utsavam 2017, and for his collaboration with several cultural organisations based in Singapore.
The idea that Hari Padman is now being framed was also discussed by participants in a Twitter Spaces session on April 2. Hosted by Sandhya Ravishankar, journalist and editor of The Lede, the session heard several accounts of Kalakshetra alumnae refuting the charge that Hari Padman could be a sexual predator. There was one particularly impassioned account from a participant who said that in her case, the actual sexual harassment was the fact that she was publicly positioned as a victim when she was not.
Hari Padman was arrested after he returned to Chennai from a study tour in Hyderabad. He has been arrested under Sections 354A (sexual harassment), 509 (use of words, gestures, or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC and Section 4 of the Women Harassment Act.