| Athavale after being paraded by student union members at Wilson College in Mumbai. (Fotocorp)
Mumbai, June 30: A 58-year-old professor had his face blackened and was paraded with a garland of slippers around his neck at Wilson College here today.
Members of the Congress-affiliated National Students Union of India, who accused Dr Vilas Athavale of misbehaving with a girl student, later handed him over to police.
The alleged misbehaviour by the biology professor, who is due to retire in two months, took place nearly a year ago. College authorities dismissed the allegation.
“He (Athavale) has been made a pawn by the NSUI in their pressure tactics to push for admission of their candidates,” said the vice-principal, Professor S.S. Parkar.
“He is an extremely respected and responsible human being associated with this college for over 25 years. Never in the past has any such allegation come up against him.”
Parkar said the girl at the centre of the controversy, a Class XII student of science at the junior college, was pulled up last July for carrying a cellphone on the campus.
“I confiscated her phone. She had to pay a fine to collect it. Since she did not have the money, Dr Athavale ' a student counsellor and supervisor of the junior college ' gave her the money in my presence,” Parkar said.
“A few days later, he saw the girl hanging around the college premises with some friends. Since she was bunking classes, he scolded her and asked her to meet him in the biology lab to explain her conduct.
“The girl didn’t go to the lab at all, but her father came to visit me the next day complaining about Dr Athavale’s unsolicited interest in his daughter’s welfare. The air was cleared and the incident ended there.”
In March, NSUI activists barged into the principal’s room demanding certain concessions for their members, Parkar alleged.
“When that was denied, they mentioned this girl and threatened to go to the press with the story unless their demands were met. The college refused to be cowed.
“A week ago, they returned demanding admissions for some of their members who didn’t have the requisite marks. We refused again and they repeated the threat. And then this happened.”
Athavale, a bachelor, has been granted bail in a case of outraging the modesty of a woman. “We are investigating' but the charges are yet to be proved,” said an officer.
The union stood by its accusation.
“Dr Athavale has been harassing the girl over the past one year,” said Shadaf Ali, NSUI secretary.
Why did the union take so long to take the matter up' “We were hoping he would improve his behaviour,” was all Ali said.
Union activists today picketed outside the college, preventing admission seekers from entering. The college has decided to close down for three days.
“Since there is a law in this state that bars union activists from carrying out their activities on the campus, we are considering legal action against the NSUI members,” Parkar said.
State Congress leaders pleaded ignorance of the incident and refused to comment.