Congress social media cell alleged sexual harassment case: Delhi police record victim’s statement

news/india | 04 July 2018 1:21 PM (UTC)
Siddhartha Rai
Highlights

“The police recorded my statement and then I was taken to the Patiala House Court for recording my statement in front of a magistrate. The police also gave me a copy of the FIR. The magistrate recorded my statement in a private room,” she told Asianet News.

After registering an FIR regarding allegations of sexual harassment levelled by a former worker of Congress social media cell against one of her ex-colleagues, the Delhi police on Wednesday (July 4) recorded the victim’s statement.

The victim also registered her statement in front of a local court.

The victim told Asianet News that the police had been “very cooperative and kind”.

“The police recorded my statement and then I was taken to the Patiala House Court for recording my statement in front of a magistrate. The police also gave me a copy of the FIR. The magistrate recorded my statement in a private room,” she told Asianet News.

On the other hand, after having released a statement on Tuesday after the controversy exploded in the media and BJP too chipped in to put the grand old party on the mat, Congress social media head Divya Spandana on Wednesday sent another mail to the victim, asking her to join the party’s internal inquiry into the matter.

The victim, however, refused.

The complainant, who was working in the Congress social media cell, had dropped a bomb on the party on Tuesday. She has alleged a co-worker and close aide of Spandana of having sexually assaulted her when she worked there and also accused Spandana of professional and mental harassment, in attempts to save the accused.

ALSO READ: Congress social media woman makes explosive sexual harassment charges against seniors, writes to Rahul Gandhi

The victim had lodged complaints with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, undermining Gandhi’s repeated proclamations on how Congress stood for women’s empowerment.

“While I was busy concentrating on my computer screen, Mr Patnaik encircled me from behind in a manner most immoral, pretending to check the tweets,” she wrote.

She further added, “He also exhaled into my breathing space whenever he encircled me — an act that was absolutely disgusting and immoral. He also tapped on my hands and shoulders, an act that was totally unnecessary and made me extremely uncomfortable.

“Mr Patnaik and I sat beside each other in the office at a distance of approximately 1.2 meters. Between us was an extended platform of drawers which he would rest his legs upon, pointing his shoes at me in a manner most disgraceful and disrespectful…I also found his gazing at the contours of my body very violating and hurtful. It was almost a daily ordeal for me.”

According to the victim, she had brought the matter to Spandana’s notice, but to no avail.

“Since he had the power to get anyone fired from the office, I tolerated his behaviour initially, out of the fear of losing my job. However, towards the end of my tenure, even on May 22, I made several verbal and non-verbal communication of a strong disapproval of his misbehaviour [sic].”

Haider had joined the social media cell of Congress on March 5. She was hired as “Social Media Manager”, and was given the responsibility of running the official Twitter account of the Indian National Congress (@INCIndia) and its communications handle (@INCSandesh).

She reported directly to Spandana and her work involved coordination with Patnaik, “who also manages the office”. The harassment allegedly happened at the party’s social media headquarters at Gurdwara Rakabganj.

“My fight is a fight between a person (me) and the department (social media department of Congress). It is not a fight between me and the party. I want those responsible punished. The onus is now on the High Command,” the victim told Asianet News.

The victim has also accused Spandana of mental harassment after she had brought the matter to her notice.

“I tried to complain to Divya about his behaviour on May 14. However, she refused to listen to my complaint and diverted the topic to my work performance instead,” she wrote.

“The period between May 17 and May 24 was marked with mental harassment. Despite knowing I was disturbed, Miss Spandana did not correct her behaviour towards me. She humiliated me with insulting work-related messages on the office group for no fault of mine. My professionalism and manners were also questioned. I broke down inconsolably on the May 23 and never returned to the office,” she explained.

Spandana, in a statement, claimed that the complaints committee had not received any such complaint from the victim.

“We have now reached out to the ex-worker and awaiting her response in the matter,” the former Kannada film actress said.

Spandana also attached the signatures of 39 members of her team who stood by the accused.

“The reason stated by the ex-worker for her stepping down was due to personal reasons and health issues and not related to the worker in any manner whatsoever. The resignation letter in fact stated - ‘I loved working here, Thank you for giving me the opportunity’,” Spandana said in her media statement.

According to the complaint, since the “general protocol was that she would run the official tweets by him before posting them”, Patnaik allegedly misused his position to sexually harass her.

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