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Three Visva students arrested in smut case

- University suspends accused following Centre’s prod and lodges police complaint

Santiniketan, Aug. 30: Three Visva-Bharati students were arrested today on the basis of a complaint the varsity lodged against them for allegedly extorting money from a junior by threatening to circulate “objectionable pictures” of her through MMS and on the Internet.

Earlier in the day, Visva-Bharati had suspended the three Kala Bhavana students following a prod from the Centre.

Police said the trio had been charged with molestation, extortion and outraging the modesty of a woman through words and gestures. Birbhum police chief Alok Rajoria said the students were arrested after they had been questioned.

Visva-Bharati sources said the HRD ministry has sought a report on the allegations and asked the central university what action it had taken on the complaint lodged by the first-year Kala Bhavana student.

A senior Visva-Bharati official said today: “A letter from the HRD ministry reached the vice-chancellor’s office this morning, seeking a detailed report on the incident. There was also a query on what steps the university had initiated following the girl’s complaint. We have sent the report to the ministry and also informed it about the steps we have taken so far.”

A Visva-Bharati source said the Centre had also sought to know what action the Kala Bhavana principal, Sisir Sahana, had taken after the girl complained to him against the seniors on Tuesday. Sahana had said yesterday that he had forwarded the complaint to the Visakha committee, which looks into allegations of sexual harassment.

Yesterday, Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta had said the university would lodge a police complaint only if an inquiry found the three students guilty.

The senior official said that in its preliminary report to the vice-chancellor, the Visakha committee had found the three Kala Bhavana students guilty.

Asked about the HRD ministry’s letter, Dattagupta said: “This is a routine affair. The Centre seeks reports in connection with any incident taking place at the university. We have sent the report.”

Proctor Harishchandra Mishra today lodged the FIR against the three students, two of whom hail from Calcutta, and an “unknown” person at Bolpur police station. “The girl could not identify the fourth youth. We are trying to find out who he is,” Mishra said.

In the complaint, Mishra has mentioned that the girl, who has gone home with her father for an indefinite period, was sexually harassed and blackmailed.

The girl had alleged that the three boys and the unknown youth had taken her to two tourist destinations in Santiniketan and clicked the “objectionable pictures” during the trip. The students had allegedly taken Rs 2,000 from the girl by threatening to circulate the pictures.

The girl’s father, who met the vice-chancellor and the president of the Visakha committee on Thursday, said over phone this morning: “We were advised by the authorities not to lodge a police complaint. I will go to Santiniketan on Tuesday. I can lodge a police complaint separately.”

Some Visva-Bharati students today submitted a memorandum to registrar D. Gunasekaran, demanding the rustication of the accused and a committee of students to look into cases of sexual harassment. They later met Kala Bhavana principal Sahana.