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Exclusive: ‘Dalit’ Christian employee of Loyola College alleges caste discrimination, sexual harassment and more, names principal in scandal

It is being alleged by Lawrence that he is not the only one who has gone through this ordeal at Loyola College. He says there are over 25 employees who have been harassed with fake complaints and fired, simply because they were "lower caste Christians".

Founded in 1925 by a French Jesuit priest, Loyola College is a Christian university, run by the Society of Jesus in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. On its website, Loyola College says that its core values include, “social responsibility, social justice and God quotient”. However, if certain employees of the college are to be believed, Loyola College upholds anything but the core values they claim to espouse. Several Christians belonging to the SC/ST category have come forward, accusing the University of caste oppression, discrimination and worse.

One such case that OpIndia covered was that of Josephine Jeyashanthi, an ordinary Christian middle-class woman, who dedicated her life to shaping the careers of her students and bringing honour to the prestigious Loyola College in Chennai until she was fired by the college administration. Josephine has been fighting a battle for the past 13 years, after she was fired from her job, without her dues being cleared, simply because she raised her voice against the rampant sexual harassment she was subjected to at the hands of her superiors who work at Loyola College.

In 2019, the Madras High Court passed a judgement in her favour, however, the college did paltry little to punish those who harassed her sexually. At the time we write the article, she was neither paid her dues, running in lakhs nor the 59 lakh compensation that she was awarded by the High Court. Her perpetrator was one Dr S Antony Rajarajan (referred to as S A Rajarajan) who became the head of the Tamil Department in the year 2008.

“You are lying dry and bare without a husband, better succumb to my desire” is what he used to tell me. In front of many others he said, There is a hole in your body, I know how to plug it. That’s the kind of obscenity I had to endure”, Josephine lamented, furthering that because she refrained from his advances, the accused filed bogus complaints with management against her, claiming that she wasn’t doing her job properly and wasn’t taking classes on a regular basis. “He created a hostile work environment for me”, said the desolate lecturer while talking to OpIndia last year.

Soon after the OpIndia article, the NCW had taken cognisance of Josephine’s plight and asked the administration (Chairman Provincial) to ensure due compliance of the Madras High Court verdict.

The list of offences committed by Loyola College in Josephine Jeyashanthi’s case

  • Rajarajan began harassing Josephine Jeyashanthi in 2008 when he joined as HOD in the college’s Tamil Department and continued until Josephine was arbitrarily fired.
  • The internal complaints body only took cognisance of Josephine’s accusation in December 2012. (The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redress) Act 2013 states that an investigation into the complaint must be completed within 90 days).
  • The Vishaka Guideline mandates that the grievance be addressed in a time-bound manner. However, it took 8 months to ‘censure’ the accused. Also, it took the college 6 years to submit the report to the court.
  • The then Secretary Rev Fr M. Albert Williams SJ and the then Principal Rev Fr G Joseph Antonysamy SJ lied to the police.
  • Most importantly, the prime accused Antony Rajarajan was not only protected by the Loyola College management but was also given privileges like superannuation with salary, while the victim was further victimised and terminated from the job without any sort of explanation and without even settling payments. 

Josephine, however, is not the only one who was harassed sexually or thrown out of her job without her dues being cleared and without being given a clear reason as to why they are being terminated (except that it was evident that the termination had everything to do with her speaking up against her superiors who harassed her sexually).

Several individuals have come forward recently to claim that their employment was terminated simply because they were ‘Dalit Christians’ and the college discriminated against them due to their caste. They have also alleged a nexus between the administration, including the principle of Loyola College and the Alumni group to persecute those who dare to speak up. According to them, this entire campaign of discrimination is being run in tandem and the complicity of the higher-ups in the Loyola College administration makes it almost impossible to find justice.

Lawrence D Cruz – Abused for being a “Dalit” Christian, made to do menial tasks, terminated without notice and allegedly sexually abused by superiors at Loyola College

Lawrence D’Cruz, a former student of Loyola College, started working at the university in October 2013. On the 23rd of April 2022, Lawrence was terminated by the college for reasons, that he says are fabricated. According to Lawrence, he was constantly discriminated against, made to do menial jobs, abused for being a “Dalit” and sexually harassed. It was when he spoke up against the injustice, the college, according to him, concocted charges and terminated his employment. Lawrence was pursuing his MBA, but he could not complete the course, he said while talking to OpIndia, due to the “indifference by Reverend Father Thomas Amirtham, the Principal of Loyola College. Father Thomas Amirthan was also the former Director of the Alumni Association, of which Lawrence was a part and was working for.

In 2013, Lawrence joined as a Junior Assistant. He joined first under Father Xavier Alphonse from the year 2013 to 2015. From the year 2015 to 2016, Lawrence worked under Father Joseph Antony Samy. After that, Lawrence started working with Father Thomas Amirthan, who took over the Alumni Association as the Director of the association at the time in 2016.

Lawrence’s job, as the junior assistant working at the Alumni Association, was to forward recommendations from the Alumni Association to the College authorities. In the course of his job, Lawrence says, he noticed misappropriation and irregularities for which, while talking to OpIndia, he directly accused Father Thomas Amirthan.

In the Alumni Association, several members of the Alumni and their offspring donate money. While Lawrence was working with Father Thomas, he says he noticed him collect money by way of cash. At the time, Lawrence felt like it was his duty to keep the Director informed of the appropriate procedures that need to be followed while collecting donations and sponsorships through the Alumni Association. At this point, Lawrence says that he told Father Thomas Amirthan that the donations and sponsorships are not meant to be collected in cash, but by way of cheques, made out in the name of the Director of the Alumni Association of in the name of the Principal of Loyola College.

Shockingly, according to Lawrence, Father Thomas started abusing him for his caste at this point. “You are a lowborn and you should learn how to behave like one”, Father Thomas allegedly to Lawrence. After the abuse that Lawrence faced, he says that he stopped bringing up the issue with Father Thomas and worked, putting his head down.

Lawrence then tells OpIndia that the funds of the Alumni association were being misused. Naming the Secretary of the Alumni Association, Mr Balamurugan Janarthanan, Lawrence said that Father Thomas and Balamurugan Janarthanan were misappropriating Alumni funds. As the PA, it was Lawrence’s job to ensure that the cheques were deposited on time and the payments made, however, he says that the two of them forced him to reroute the cheques elsewhere. Uncomfortable with being forced to commit illegality, Lawrence brought up the issue with the Alumni’s top bosses, only to be abused again. He was told that as a “lowborn and untouchable person”, he was only fir to “work as a sweeper”, and therefore, he should keep quiet and look the other way. He was also threatened, saying that they know how to “take care of him” if he dared to speak up.

It was after this, Lawrence says, that the saga of discrimination started. Every month, Lawrence used to get Rs 500 as a telephone allowance, since he had to call several Alumni members. The allowance was stopped for Lawrence, however, he was made to sign the vouchers. His leaves were cut down and on Sundays, he was made to do menial tasks, cleaning the premises. Even on government holidays, Lawrence would not be spared. According to him, while the cleaning staff was on leave, Lawrence was forced to work because of his caste and as a punishment for speaking up his work hours were extended till 8 PM (which used to be till 5 PM) simply to mentally torture him.

Further, Lawrence was forced to eat outside of the Alumni office because they did not think he was “suitable” to eat with them. “One by one, they took away all the facilities from me because they wanted me to resign from the job. But I kept taking the blows because I come from a financially backward background and have two sisters I need to take care of. I am the only son in the family”, Lawrence said talking to OpIndia.

“Leave your slippers outside”, Lawrence was told, because he should not be wearing footwear in front of high born Christians.

In June 2018, things took a turn for the worse. Lawrence met with an accident at that time. After 2 months, when he returned to his job, he was told that there was no work for him and he should find a job elsewhere.

Shocked, Lawrence met the Secretary of Loyola College, Rev. Dr D. Selvanayagam. Rev. Dr D. Selvanayagam told Lawrence that someone else had been employed in his position, therefore, nothing can be done and he should find a job elsewhere. In the following weeks, Lawrence and his family almost fell to the feet of the administration, trying to save his job, which he seemed to lose for no apparent reason. Finally, Rev. Dr. D. Selvanayagam told Lawrence that there is an attendant job vacancy at the Library and he should start working there.

“Because of my family situation, I did not say anything and took the job. I went to the Library to collect students’ bags and usher them inside with the token. I joined in 2018 and I was there, doing this job, till 2019. My work timing was 11:30 AM to 8 PM because even though the college timing ends at 6:30 PM, according to UGC rules, we need to keep the library open till 8 PM”, Lawrence said.

But after 6:30 PM is when the college started deliberately persecuting him. He was told that after 6:30 PM, he would have to clean and sweep the Library. Lawrence says he tried to explain that sweeping, cleaning and washing was not his job, however, Mr Parthiban – Librarian and Fr. Leonard – Director of Library both instructed Lawrence to submit his resignation letter to the Secretary of Loyola College and leave the campus if the assigned work was not acceptable to him.

Between 2018 and June 2019, Lawrence swallowed the bitter pill and worked as per instructions in this job profile because he had a family to feed, he says.

In 2019, things were about to get worse for Lawrence than they already were.

Father Thomas Amirthan was promoted as the Principal of Loyola College. If one recalls, it was Father Thomas who was allegedly misappropriating funds from the Alumni Association and it was after that, that the saga of torture started.

“In 2019, Mr Parthiban and Father Leonard, at the behest of Father Thomas Amirthan, forced me to do menial work and wash the restroom”, says Lawrence. “I was fully against this. I said I will not clean the washroom under any circumstances. I had a fight with the Library authorities and they sent an email complaining about me directly to Father Thomas. Father Thomas then threatened me, saying that if you can’t do whatever work you are being assigned, you will be removed from the college. He also said that he will confiscate my certificates and that I will not be able to find work anywhere in my life. I was asked to either clean the washroom or resign, failing which, I would be fired and my life made miserable”, he added.

Lawrence further said that in October 2019, Father Thomas forced him to even sign an apology letter for dereliction of duty when he had refused to clean the toilet. “Because of my family situation, I again succumbed and wrote the apology letter”, Lawrence said.

Another horrific tale of torture: Lawrence D Cruz was sexually tortured from 2018 to 2019

While in 2019, Lawrence signed the apology letter and submitted it to the Principal, there was another episode of torture that lasted for an entire year. From 2018 to 2019, Lawrence D’Cruz was sexually tortured by one Mr Gnanaprakasam, who was also the Library staff at Loyola College. Lawrence says that he complained orally to Father Leonard, who refused to do anything. When his oral complaint was met with apathy, Lawrence wrote an official complaint to the father, detailing how he was sexually harassed. Lawrence says that along with the complaint, he also handed over some video proof of the sexual abuse that he suffered.

The complaint, he says, was brushed under the carpet. Father Leonard apparently deleted all the videos that Lawrence had handed over to him and told him to not pursue the matter any further.

According to Lawrence, following is the complaint he tried to place on record on the 10th of April 2019 but was turned away by Father Leonard. OpIndia has a copy of the handwritten complaint by Leonard, the text of which is produced below:

Dear Rev.Fr.Leonard, S.J.,

Greetings!

In spite of complaining to our librarian Dr. Parthiban several times regarding Mr. Gnanaprakasam sexually harassing me, no action has been taken against him. I think it is because, he is the relative of Mrs. Susana Felicia. As per your instruction I am working in the library bag counter from 11.30am to 6.30pm and then from 6.30pm to 8.00 pm inside the library doing cleaning work. I have been doing my duties and responsibilities to the best of my abilities, as per your instruction at all your aspects.

Kindly find the below illustrations:

i. Some times between 5.00pm to 6.00pm, while I am alone in the bag counter section, he forced me to go to inside the bag counter room, because I am seated only outside of the bag counter room.

ii. After 6.30pm while working inside the library, he volunterly comes and talks to me and gives me work.

iii. On Christmas time, while going to the restroom he grabbed me from behind and try to kiss me.

iv. He always makes sexual jokes while talking to me.

v. He calls me regularly eventhough I block his calls.

vi. Also he showed me few porn videos while other staffs were on leave.

In front of other staffs his behaviour is very normal without any doubt. The above incidents are really disturbing and it’s severally affecting my mind, I am not able to concentrate in my work as well my family. He also threatened to terminate me from my job through his relative Mrs. Susana Felicia if I told anyone. Hence I request you to kindly intervene in this matter and help me the earliest and do the needful and oblige.

In December 2019, Lawrence says he was summoned by the Principal Father Thomas and Rev. Dr D. Selvanayagam. During the meeting, Lawrence claims he was threatened yet again, saying that he either does the task assigned and keeps quiet, or he can quit the job. He was further told that if she does do as told, they know methods that can be deployed against him to ‘make him resign’.

The saga continued as is, until the 9th of December 2021, when Lawrence shot an email to several individuals in the Loyola College administration detailing his ordeal.

Days after Lawrence complains over email, a mysterious sexual harassment complaint is filed against him

After his emails, on the 10th January 2022, two women who worked in the Library complained against Lawrence, accusing him of sexual harassment. Lawrence believes that these complaints were fake. He says that they were much older and he always treated them as sisters.

They claimed that Lawrence used to follow them consistently, knock incessantly at the bathroom door, sing songs and harass them.

After the complaint, an inquiry was launched against Lawrence and it was finally on the 23rd of April, that he was terminated from his job. When terminated, Lawrence says that he pleaded with Father Thomas and Dr D. Selvanayakam saying that the findings are incorrect. He told them, according to Lawrence, that the Library has CCTV coverage and if he was wrong, there would be some evidence of wrong-doing.

Interestingly, Lawrence handed over a recorded conversation between him and a member of the internal inquiry team. In that conversation, Lawrence was repeatedly told that he needs to be careful since there are forces trying to “set him up”.

A transcript of the conversation is produced below:

Mr. A. Gnanaraj: I am warning you in advance because I am in the commission, they are trying to corner you in a different way.

Mr. A. Gnanaraj: I am not supposed to tell you all this.

Mr. A. Gnanaraj: You have a good reputation, but they are trying to malign you.

Lawrence: They are trying to set me up rite?

Mr. A. Gnanaraj: Yes

Mr. A. Gnanaraj: I was unable to sleep last night…a sister who is on the committee also wondered how will Lawrence repeatedly go behind these women? Won’t he have any other work to do? He’s educated, a very good boy, and has a lot of friends, it’s impossible for him to do all this. He could be in some trouble. So we need to investigate what it is.

Mr. A. Gnanaraj: Please consult a lawyer and respond to the show-cause notice, because they have planned to terminate you from your job. ‘YOU MUST BE VERY CAREFUL’

Pray to St. Antony and I will also pray for you.

In his email dated 5th March 2022, Lawrence claims that the accusations against him are fake and the problems started for him after he flagged several irregularities in the Alumni Association.

A saga of unanswered emails and withheld certificates

Lawrence wrote several emails to the Loyola College administration over the months. One such email was written on 28th February 2022 as a reminder of the previous emails sent. In this, he detailed his ordeal, however, according to Lawrence, he got no response from the college.

In this particular email, he also detailed all the other Christian employees who have been terminated without cause, apparently, simply because they were “lower caste”.

Interestingly, Lawrence also wrote an email on the 24th of March 2022 flagging the confiscation of his original academic certificates. In the email, he writes that he has requested several times that his documents and certificates be given back to him, however, the College was not obliging. He writes that it is against UGC and Madras University norms to collect original certificates and Loyola College has not only collected them but was using these certificates to threaten employees, including Lawrence.

Lawrence says that it was on 15th June that he got a message to collect his original certificate once word got out that the media may pick his story up.

It is being alleged by Lawrence that he is not the only one who has gone through this ordeal at Loyola College. He says there are over 25 employees who have been harassed with fake complaints and fired, simply because they were “lower caste Christians”. There is a similar pattern that is followed in all of those cases. Essentially, these employees are hounded with fake complaints and then, their employment is terminated. Often, their original certificates are also not returned. The victims that OpIndia spoke to confirmed that their original certificates also have not been returned. In fact, they also confirmed that the Alumni Association and its office were being used to hound “lower caste Christians” out of the college with the tacit complicity of the Principal, Father Thomas.

OpIndia spoke to several such victims. One such victim was one J Buela, who also worked at Loyola College. Buela was working as an Assistant Professor for five years at the ‘School of Service Learning’ at Loyola College. She told OpIndia that she was fired from her job on the 31st of August 2021 without any prior intimation. When she had asked the Secretary of the college Rev. Dr D. Selvanayagam, S.J. for the reason for the termination, she was informed that her contract period with the college was over, however, she says that no such condition was present in her appointment letter. She too, placed the blame of the hounding of “lower caste Christians” at the doorstep of Fr. Selvanayagam S.J and Rev Dr A. Thomas, SJ.

OpIndia would be exploring the stories of these victims, including J Buela in the following articles.

Note: OpIndia wrote emails to most of the individuals mentioned in this article, including Father Thomas, however, we have failed to get a response from any of the parties concerned. We would be pursuing responses from the concerned people further and include an addendum if any of them choose to respond.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nupur J Sharma
Nupur J Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, OpIndia.

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