A timeline of events since the time that some of our ex-students alleged that they had felt sexually harassed by one of our instructors, and that they were not satisfied with our initial responses to their complaints.
On 21st October, our Internal Committee has started a formal investigation process. Mohan has stepped down from teaching all general classes for the duration of the IC’s investigation. We cannot share any more details while the investigation process is going on. But this document will be periodically updated till we reach closure on this issue.
The testimonials from a few ex-students were presented to us.
Announcements were made in class about mohan stepping down from teaching for an indefinite period - to give us time to understand the situation and 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, councellors and social organisations.
We had the first consultation with Enfold. All 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. Mohan and I have had detailed sessions with Dr. Saldanha – introspecting on our roles in this series of events, talking through measures to re-calibrate our personal conduct, in and out of class, and our teaching style, so that the essential elements of teaching are not lost, but ensuring that no student feels threatened.
In an open event, both mohan and I made public statements regretting our role in causing hurt to students, and vowing our intent to create institutional mechanisms to prevent a recurrence of such events in the future. mohan’s statement attached.
The law on sexual harassment 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
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 (IC)*. The IC 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.
IC members were briefed by Dr. Saldanha. Subsequently two more student-members (including a back-up member) were added to the IC based on the recommendation of external advisors.
IC posters were put up with the contact details of all members.
17th - 21st September
Mohan went through a 5 day training program conducted by Enfold as suggested by Dr. Saldanha.
the program details can be found here
This (or a similar) training program is now mandatory for all instructors at the practice room and we will ensure that all the current instructors/ asst. instructors attend this within the next few months.
20th September and 21st September
Dr. Saldanha made two trips to the practice room addressing all students about the functioning of the IC, and answering questions that were raised by students on the issue of touch and physical adjustments in class. Enfold will continue to conduct these sensitization sessions periodically at the practice room.
Having implemented, in letter and in spirit, all the steps that were advised by our external advisor, Mohan returned to teaching general classes at the practice room (after staying away for 2.5 months).
Query was received by the IC from one of the original complainants about mohan’s return to teaching. This query was registered as a complaint and the IC decided to formally investigate all allegations. I stepped down from the IC for the duration of the investigation.
The law prescribes the IC to conclude the investigation within 3 months. This period comes to an end by the end of January. Meanwhile queries about the investigation can be addressed to the IC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mohan has stepped down from teaching all general classes for the duration of the IC’s investigation. He continues to teach the senior citizens’ class.
Mohan’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.