Published: 11th October 2018
#MeToo: The school that victim blamed Ruchika Girhotra stopped this sexual assault survivor from speaking up
Filmmaker Garima Pura has now exposed MC Nair, a Bharatanatyam teacher, who claims to be a Padma Shri awardee of molesting her at Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh
Have we forgotten Ruchika Girhotra? It's almost been three decades since the 14-year-old tennis player, who was molested by Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore IPS and was then subjected to harassment and massive victim shaming, committed suicide. She was also expelled from Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh, where she was a Class X student. Years later, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, an alumna tells us about how victim blaming in reference to the Ruchika case pulled her back from speaking up about a petrifying abuse and molestation that she had to face from a dance teacher in the same school.
An account by Garima Pura, an independent filmmaker and writer, about M C Nair, a Bharatanatyam teacher allegedly molesting her when she was a Class VII student, is nothing short of spine-chilling. In a series of photographs Garima has uploaded in her Instagram handle, she talks about how Nair, who falsely claims to have won a Padma Shri, allegedly assaulted her 10 years back, during a dance rehearsal. The assault continued for days and was followed by months of insomnia and self-loathing.
#TimesUp: M C Nair, the teacher who allegedly molested Garima | Source: Instagram/@mckalashree
Read the account here:
Garima tells us about how the incident affected her deeply as a child and blames the school for their attitude towards sensitive subjects like these. Coincidentally, she was abused around the same time when Rathore was sentenced to jail. "When the case was re-circling, our principal was making frequent rounds of the court. Teachers used to talk about it in a very bad way and that sort of pulled me back from talking about my experience," she says. She also recalls an anecdote, where a teacher normalised victim blaming. "Even 20 years down the line, Ruchika was victim shamed. I remember a teacher questioning her character asking, 'Do you think it's just the man's fault? Obviously not. The girl herself would have had a very poor character. Who would stand in the same room if a man touched you inappropriately?' This discouraged me from opening up," she narrates.
Turning pages: Ruchika Girhotra committed suicide in 1993
"My friends and my school really let me down," says Garima. She remembers how she was a sad and lonely child, post this incident. "I was once told by my 'friends' that I seem very sad and so they don't want to hang out with me," she recalls. But a few months later, she confided in her sister. "She was the first person who helped me with this. She told me that I had complete freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. She was ready to support me to leave the dance class," she says.
In 2014, she started college and she believes that was when things started getting better and she stopped blaming herself. "I'd often ask myself why I went there again. It was only in college that I found a place to talk about it and got some closure. I wasn't angry anymore," she says.
#MeToo must never die
Garima thinks that #MeToo is an absolutely brilliant movement and hopes that it never dies. "It's only through such initiatives that you get to know that it's not just you, but others have also gone through something similar. I'm all for naming and shaming. I've been taking the ends of everybody to put the story out. Now I have closure," she says.
Garima had initially put up the post claiming that it was a friend's anecdote, fearing how her parents would react to it. So, why did she reveal her identity? "My mother sort of connected the dots seeing the post. She told me that if it was me, they would support me throughout. This was really reassuring," she says. Garima has no fear now. She is out with hundreds of other women to shame the abusers and the end the dirty blame game.
Who is M C Nair?
Mohanachandran Nair, better known as Kalashree MC Nair, runs a dance school named Nrithyashree in New Delhi. Through various reports, he claims to have won a Padma Shri in 1978, when he was 17. But is it for real? Going through the Indian Government's padmaawards.gov.
False claim: The article where M C Nair calls himself a Padma Shri awardee
He was later removed from Sacred Hearts, following a complaint by another student. Later, he started teaching at St Anthony's Senior Secondary school, New Delhi, according to his (now defunct) Facebook profile. The school authorities were not available for a comment on this issue.