Woman alleges harassment by eminent author of Odisha

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Bhubaneswar: Eminent litterateur Haraprasad Das has refuted allegations of harassment through Facebook chat brought by a teacher, saying he has been inactive on his Facebook profile since long and this must be a hacker’s job.

Allegations leveled by the teacher and writer about the renowned essayist and columnist harassing her on Facebook messenger through indecent messages has shocked the literary fraternity in the state. The complainant had drawn the attention of people through a Facebook post and also attached the screenshots of the chat she had with Moortidevi awardee writer Haraprasad Das. Corroborating her allegations, members of a city based literary organization also knocked the doors of the Odisha State Commission for Women on Monday.

Speaking to OTV,  the Kalahandi based teacher said the author has gone on to the extent of asking her whether she was ‘sleeping alone’ and also to send him selfies, late at night.

“I began chatting with Haraprasad Das on my messenger in April when he started praising my work. I was initially taken aback that a personality of his stature has appreciated my work. Soon he would send messages and I used to respond since the discussions were about literature. But later he started making video calls which I never answered. But sometimes he would ping me late.  Once, when he pinged me at 11 pm,  I said I was busy on phone with my husband who lives in Bhubaneswar. He then asked me if I was sleeping alone! I told him I live with my in-laws. He then asked me to send a selfie!” she alleged.

To find out if it was Das himself or an impostor with a fake account, she continuously posed him questions related to literature which he answered correctly.

“If it were a fake account I doubt the person managing the account would have such deep knowledge of literature. I had initially kept quiet about the incident but when I saw some female writers alleging that they were being lured with awards and book publishing by an eminent writer who was behaving indecently, I decided to come out in the open and posted about the incident with snaps of the chat on my Facebook profile,” she said.

She said that many women writers encouraged her to bring out in open what has been happening with her. “Its  time all women facing such behavior come out in public about such harassment,” she said.

Members of Sanskruti ‘O’ Sanskruti on Monday complained before the Odisha State Commission for Women that Das lured female writers of new generation by promising to publish their works in newspapers and magazines.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Commission said steps will be taken on basis of the allegation in the complaint.

Talking to OTV, Chairman of Sanskruti ‘O’ Sanskruti Pradosh Patnaik said, “Some newspapers have reported it and it is also on Whatsapp. Further probe will bring out the truth about it.”

Former Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University of Culture Dr. Bimalendu Mohanty said, “A person is discussing and even trying to keep physical and sexual relation with female writers and poets of Odisha by luring them through various means. It is the duty of the Women’s Commission to probe on this cognizable offence.”

Das, however, has refuted the allegations as baseless.  Speaking to OTV he said, “If someone were harmed it would be different but there’s nothing serious about it. My half a century reputation is being spoiled. The allegations are imaginary and bogus. The entire thing is concocted. Anyone can post anything on Facebook these days. As such I have been inactive on my Facebook profile since long. This must be a hacker’s job. I have never been involved in incidents of luring anyone on the pretext of awards as I’m not part of any committee of Sahitya Akademi.”

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