A timeline of events since the time that some of our ex-students alleged that they had felt inappropriately adjusted by one of our instructors, and that they were not satisfied with our initial responses to their complaints. Our Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) - comprising of internal and external members, conducted the investigation. All complainants were spoken with in-person, and the respondent stepped down from teaching all general classes at the practice room for the duration of the ICC’s investigation.
This blog was initially published in november 2018, and was last updated on 1 March, 2019
21st July, 2018
The testimonials from a few ex-students were presented to us.
22nd July, 2018
Announcements were made in class about the respondent stepping down from teaching general classes for an indefinite period - to give us time to understand the situation, to respond appropriately, and to create a non-threatening environment, should anyone else wish to come forward with questions and concerns.
We actively started the process of consultations with lawyers, counselors, and social organisations.
27th July, 2018
We had the first consultation with Enfold. The facts of the case – the extent of allegations, the incidents inside and outside of the practice room, the timeline of events, the individuals involved, our initial responses, all were discussed in detail with Dr. Shaibya Saldanha.
4th August, 2018
In an open event, the respondent and I made public statements regretting our role in causing hurt to students, and affirming our intent to create institutional mechanisms to prevent a recurrence of such situations in the future. (the respondent’s statement follows under)
The law on sexual harassment of women at workplace (the POSH Act*) was studied in detail, and work was started on drafting an Internal Process Guideline in consultation with Enfold, other lawyers, as well as inputs from students who have had experience in dealing with issues related to sexual harassment in workplace, and volunteered to participate in this process.
Week of 10th September, 2018
Announcement was made in all classes about:
- adoption of the ‘Process Guideline’ on dealing with complaints of sexual harassment, and putting out a copy of the above to be kept at the practice room at all times.
- the setting up of the Internal Committee (ICC)*. The ICC has a fair representation from our various batches. Most of the student-members have experience in handling issues related to sexual harassment in various institutions.
*In 2013, India’s first legislation specifically addressing the issue of workplace sexual harassment was enacted: the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, (“POSH Act”).
An important feature of the POSH Act is that it envisages the setting up of a grievance redressal forum: the Internal Committee. The POSH Act requires an employer to set up an ‘internal committee’ (“IC”) at each office or branch, of an organization employing 10 or more employees, to hear and redress grievances pertaining to sexual harassment. The POSH Act details guidelines on the constitution of the IC, the enquiry/ redressal process, punishment and compensation, and stresses on the need to maintain confidentiality. The POSH Act stipulates that the IC shall, while inquiring into a complaint of workplace sexual harassment, have the same powers as vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when trying a suit in respect of: i. summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath; ii. requiring the discovery and production of documents; and iii. any other matter which may be prescribed.
In addition to requiring an employer to set up an IC and ensure redressal of grievances of workplace harassment in a time bound manner, the POSH Act casts certain other obligations upon an employer which includes: a. Promoting a gender sensitive workplace and removing the underlying factors that contribute towards creating a hostile working environment against women; b. provide a safe working environment; c. formulating and disseminating an internal policy or charter or resolution or declaration for prohibition, prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace; d. displaying conspicuously at the workplace, the names and contact details of all members of the IC; f. organising workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitizing employees on the issues and implications of workplace sexual harassment and organizing orientation programmes for members of the IC.
14th September, 2018
ICC members were briefed by Dr. Saldanha. Subsequently two more student-members (including a back-up member) were added to the ICC based on the recommendation of external advisors.
17th September, 2018
ICC posters were put up with the contact details of all members.
17th - 21st September, 2018
The respondent went through a 5 day training program conducted by Enfold.
the program details can be found here
This (or a similar) training program is now mandatory for all instructors at the practice room.
20th September and 21st September, 2018
Interactive sensitisation sessions were organised for all students on: “Touch and Personal Safety”, the functioning of the ICC, and answering questions that were raised by students. These sessions conducted by Enfold will continue periodically at the practice room.
4 October, 2018
Having implemented all the steps that were advised by our external advisor, the respondent returned to teaching general classes at the practice room (after staying away for 2.5 months).
19th October, 2018
Query was received by the ICC from one of the original complainants about the respondent’s return to teaching.
Subsequently, this query was registered as a complaint and the ICC decided to formally investigate all allegations. The respondent stepped down from teaching general classes at the practice room once again, and I stepped down from the ICC for the duration of the investigation.
The complainants raised an objection to one of the ICC members, and a back-up member was selected.
4th November, 2019
Graphic details of the complaints, and testimonials of complainants, emerged on the social media, and on print media
30 January, 2019
The ICC submitted its reports. The reports in their entirety are meant to be kept confidential between the respondent and the respective complainants. The recommendations fall into two broad categories:
- Informing, giving choice, and giving confidence to students, so that situations of unease can freely surface, and be dealt with
- Informing, training and equipping instructors, so that even unintentionally, they do not breach personal boundaries of students.
We are acting upon the ICC recommendations.
The list of measures that have been adopted, and any new measures that are adopted in the future, can be found at this link.
The investigation is now closed.
The respondent’s statement to the students at the practice room on the 4th August, 2018
It has been a few weeks since our minds have been occupied with issues that are far from the practice of Yoga. This sort of diversion is the last thing I want to cause and be at the centre of.
Joya's decisive action of asking me to step down was not an acceptance of my guilt but for wanting a honest and thorough understanding of the situation.
The practice of yoga has been at the centre of my life for more that 15 years. It has been a critical force in overcoming several personal difficulties and challenges I have faced. As a teacher my dream and passion has been to make all of you learn faster than I did and to become better than I ever will be.
I speak to you today after a great deal of introspection and thought.
This I want to make clear: I have not deliberately touched a man or woman inappropriately in the last 5 years of teaching.
The allegations and rumours have deeply impacted me and my relationship with you my students.
I have come to realize after reflection, that I have not interrogated deeply enough about:
the importance of holding very high levels of personal boundaries, in words and actions, in all areas of life especially as a teacher and as a man in a gendered society.
So that, even by mistake, no body should feels harassed or unsafe.
With the help of experts I hope to acquire detailed understanding of the subject which will help me evolve as a student, as a teacher and as a human being, and to put The Practice Room on the path of becoming the finest Yoga institute in Bangalore.
Thank you all for your overwhelming support.