Sudipto Chatterjee, a theatre practitioner who was previously a faculty member at Kolkata's The Heritage Academy, has been arrested by the Kolkata police on 18 October after an FIR was filed at the Phoolbagan police station by a woman who accused him of rape. Previously, the 20-year-old spoke about her experience on Facebook; her’s is among at least two of the accounts that have emerged against Chatterjee.
Another FIR was filed at Beleghata police station by another woman who accused Chatterjee of molestation. He was first detained by the police at Phoolbagan police station and arrested later in the evening on 18 October. This woman had also taken to social media to post her account, after the first woman detailed hers.
PTI reports that Chatterjee has confessed to the crime. Panchali Kar, a gender activist from the city, said that he will be produced in court today.
The first allegation was posted by a third-year student from Kolkata who performed in plays staged by his theatre group Spectators. The woman, who wished to be anonymous, said that a few months ago, Chatterjee allegedly asked her to come to his house so he could help her work through the scene of a play they were staging. "He called me to his house to teach me diaphragm breathing and the psycho-physical approach to acting. He spoke to me about the traumas of rape as the scene was of a similar nature, and took me to my utmost state of vulnerability. He held me from behind to teach diaphragm breathing and explained it wasn’t sexual," she explains.
She says that he then asked her to lie down on a bed and recite the dialogues with her eyes shut, which is when he allegedly began touching her. This is when he penetrated her with his fingers without prior warning, she claims. She says this caused her body to tighten and voice to break, which is when he stopped. The woman adds that he allegedly tried to do something similar to her a day or two after the incident, to which she said no.
She continued to work for the production she was part of, she says, because she had bottled up the trauma. "I took time to deal with my mental health and finally decided to come out with this incident," she says. When she confronted him, she says that he allegedly ignored her WhatsApp messages and blocked her.
Chatterjee is also her teacher at The Heritage Academy. She filed an official complaint at the institution against him on 14 October and was told two days later that he had submitted his resignation on 15 October. "The students of the college protested against this, and now the college is forming a proper internal complaints committee (ICC)," says the woman; she was appraised of the formation of the ICC through an email from the administration of the college.
The Heritage Academy has not responded to emails from Firstpost. Speaking to NDTV, a college official reportedly said on 17 October, “We have told our student she must file a police complaint and we will support her with all the documentation she needs from us."
Responding to the woman's allegation, Chatterjee said to Firstpost: "I deny the statements she has made against me on social media and anything that she has stated. If there was any kind of physical touch with her that was solely with her verbal consent and was completely geared towards general theatrical training and the play in hand. And did not have any kind of sexual encounter or approach either. I have previously also taught a lot of my students in the same way and whenever I’ve done so, I’ve always informed them about the entire exercise before I proceeded. Also, if there is any kind of discomfort they face during the exercise, I stop immediately and do not carry on with it or force it upon anyone. And in her case, I had certainly informed her about the entire process before I started it in person, with her full consent. And most students, regardless of their gender, whom I have worked with on this technique have found it useful in their performances thereafter. The approach to how I teach is based on how I learnt the diaphragm breathing technique from my teacher the renowned Ajitesh Bandopadhyay. Thereafter, several teachers abroad have taught me different versions of more or less the same method."
He termed her confronting him as being a "vitriolic WhatsApp message, eight months after the incident, that contained serious allegations and even a death curse. I don’t think her message was intended for a response; it was a unilateral damnation of me as a person. She has stated all this in her post on Facebook, which is basically subjecting me to an online trial without any inquiry about the incident from me. Through the entire period of eight months since the alleged ‘incident’ happened, she has been in constant touch with me, all of which evince only social, familial and friendly cordiality. I have WhatsApp messages to prove that warm presence, which suddenly took this strange and violent turn during the month of September. I do not accept anything whatsoever that has been stated about me in her Facebook post or complaint to The Heritage Academy. I am completely innocent and demand legal justice," he adds.
He says that he was asked to submit his resignation by the head of the college's Human Resources department, in the presence of the dean.
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Updated Date: Oct 19, 2019 17:24:52 IST