Remember when Rajendra Pachauri was the wholesome and much-quoted champion of a clean, green, low-carbon planet? UNSW certainly does because it lavished an honorary doctorate on the then-IPCC chief — an honour sexual harassment charges have called into question
In 2008, the University of NSW awarded the university’s highest honor to a man later revealed to be a sexual predator and perjurer. Concurrently, the sexual predator and perjurer became the ‘godfather’ to the university’s Climate Change Research Centre, having been awarded the honor of opening the facility. Who was that man?
Answer: Dr Rajendra Pachauri, 75, the disgraced former head (2002-2015) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) whose sexual predator status was confirmed in May by a three-person Internal Complaints Committee of the TERI think-tank, of which Pachauri — amazingly – continues to be Director-General, albeit on leave.
The TERI committee upheld the complaints of a 29-year-old female researcher who was subjected to Pachauri’s hundreds of inappropriate messages, propositions and grabbings between September, 2013, and December, 2014. He is now separately arraigned on police charges that include molestation, stalking, sexual harassment and criminal intimidation. If convicted, he could spend seven years in jail. Other women from TERI also have come forward with allegations strongly suggesting his predatory ways date back a decade or more.
And perjurer? Proven. Delhi High Court Judge K. Ramamoorthy found in a civil case in 1996 that Pachauri and his two TERI co-directors “have suppressed material facts and they have sworn to false affidavits.” The judge said (para 144) that management of TERI was unsafe in their hands.
You might think such a judgement would have been a career setback for Dr Pachauri. No way. Within a year of this judicial accolade, the Asian group in the UN voted Pachauri into the IPCC as their vice-chair, and in 2002 the corrupt and dictator-led majority of governments in the UN voted him in as IPCC chair.
In other words, he was not fit to run what was then a small Delhi eco-thinktank, but was nevertheless deemed fit soon after to run a UN climate outfit mustering trillion-dollar spending on a global energy and north-south makeover. Pachauri held that exalted posdition until February, 2015, when the harassment charges obliged him to step down.
An InterAcademy Council inquiry set up in 2010 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in the wake of the IPCC’s Himalayan-glaciers howlers in 2007, told him to step down, but Pachauri refused, determined to keep the chair until October this year. The police charges in February caused him to resign precipitately.
All this raises the question: How comfortable is the UNSW right now with its 2008 accolade to Dr Pachauri? I emailed UNSW media executive Denise Knight: “Is the UNSW taking any steps to review or revoke Dr Pachauri’s honorary doctorate?”
She emailed back the university’s official response: “As the matter is before the courts it is inappropriate for us to reach conclusions or take action at this stage.”
It is good that UNSW is tracking the Delhi court case and will at least contemplate the first-ever revocation of an honorary UNSW doctorate in the event that Pachauri is formally convicted as a sleazebag. Pachauri has been the darling not only of UNSW but of Australian universities all over. In 2013, for example, Pachauri dropped in on the Albert Deakin Research Institute (ADRI) at Deakin University — ADRI falsely calling him the “Nobel Peace Prize-winning panelist”, an unearned and imaginary honour it has cited more than once.
ADRI’s gorge-rising tribute to Pachauri began:
“Dr Pachauri’s gentle and unnassuming demeanour is testament to his life’s work: it seems only appropriate that one must assume such a persona when acting as something of a figurehead for sustainable futures.”
“The sheer delight of being able to do something for society is, I’m sure, of enormous appeal to young people, and we have to somehow give them an appreciation of that appeal.” He spoke of “the perceived change that I notice on the part of young people. They seem so focused, they seem so concerned about some of the issues that are really going to define the future of human society, and they seem highly motivated to bring about change, so these are the sorts of factors that certainly give me a sense of optimism.”
Professor David Lowe, then-director of ADRI, acclaimed Pachauri’s visit and lecture as “a great coup” by ADRI. Yet Lowe was fully aware of Pachauri’s agenda to use global warming as a tool to shift billions or trillions from the First World to Third World kleptocracies. Lowe quoted approvingly:
“Dr Pachauri has said previously that the West needs to make major structural and policy changes in the way it goes about economic development – wealth needs to be shifted from the developed to the developing nations.”
Deakin has formal partnerships with TERI, and TERI has a laboratory underway on Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus, and Vice-Chancellor Jane den Hollander was fawning in hailing her ersatz “Nobel Prize winner”
“For Deakin to be partnered with such an organisation led by a man of Dr Pachauri’s standing is a significant compliment which we hope to repay with outcomes of excellence and usefulness to our respective communities..”
Let’s hope Pachauri, if convicted, doesn’t cement Deakin’s relations with the Delhi convict community.
Let’s also hope that den Hollander and Deakin, as a TERI partner, are now putting pressure on TERI’s board to sack its sleazy director-general. As things stand, he might escape conviction by the Delhi courts and return to TERI, despite TERI itself having convicted him as a sexual harasser.
TERI’s complaints committee interviewed 30 witnesses for the woman, and 19 for Pachauri. It recommended — without result, it should be noted — disciplinary action, plus compensation for the young woman’s for medical expenses over the stress he had caused her. The victim deposed:
“I feel broken and scarred in body and mind due to Dr. Pachauri’s behavior and actions. I get frequent panic attacks due to the constant harassment and being made to feel like an object of vulgar desire from this man, who is old enough to be my grandfather.
Till (February 2015) I was extremely scared of going and reporting the behaviour of Dr. Pachauri, as he is the head of the organization for which I work and I did not know who I could turn to for help. I have tried to ignore and brush aside a lot of offensive behaviour from Dr. Pachauri as I was very scared of losing my reputation and employment if I complained to anyone. I request you to register my complaint against Dr. Pachauri and bring him to justice.”
Pachauri says he is being targeted by vested interests (What? The fossil fuels lobby was writing his love porn?). The young woman, he says, is merely working off grudges over a poor performance assessment.
If you take his word for it, Pachauri is also the victim of a conspiracy by cyber criminals, hackers and others out to destroy his reputation as a planet-saving climate chief. Pachauri even filed his own police complaint about the hacking of his phone and computer. He claims some subordinate at TERI had his password and spent 14 months composing and sending incriminating messages to the female complainant – surprisingly, without Pachauri ever noticing. As one Indian paper put it, maybe Pachauri will next claim that space aliens did it.
He also petitioned unsuccessfully to have reporters gagged from reporting both the police case and the internal TERI investigation. The police in turn asked the court to cancel his bail because he was not cooperating and misusing his liberty to influence witnesses. The woman’s counsel argued that Pachauri had been rehearsing witnesses and “hijacking the entire electronic evidence”.
“He is an influential man. He should not be allowed to enter TERI premises till the investigation is going on,” the woman’s counsel contended.
The transcripts detailing Pachauri’s alleged verbal and physical assaults on the female research analyst were not of the ambiguous kind. She deposed that Pachauri’s continued misconduct left her depressed and broken, but she still lodged the formal complaint in a bid to make sure no one else at TERI suffered as as she had done. She went to police because, after filing the internal complaint, she was given no protection, being expected to continue reporting to Pachauri on a daily basis.
Barely a week after joining TERI, she said, Pachauri was pestering her with advances via late-night text messages. “Please you are not to grab me and or kiss me,” she begged him.
He responded to her knock-backs with queasy messages such as:
“I shall try to suppress my human feelings, and live with a sad restraint on my words and actions. Never to make you uncomfortable or stressed on my account.”
Nonetheless on October 1 he was texting:
10:12 pm: And just to prove to you how much I love you, I shall go on a fast after the cricket match tomorrow. I will break the fast only when you believe I love you with sincerity and unfathomable depth.
10:21 pm: All right we have our respective perceptions which differ, and we can live with them and also let live. Perhaps some day you would know how sweet and sublime my feelings for you are! I shall not call off my fast till you fully believe that sacred truth.
10:28 pm: All right! I’ve got the message. I wish you would see the difference between something tender and loving and something crass and vulgar. You obviously don’t! So I shall slink away and withdraw! Farewell my sweet [the complainant’s name]. But I insist on the fast just to hear you say that you believe I really love you.
10:35 pm: Besides I want to punish myself for alienating you!
10:36 pm: And losing the most wonderful girl I’ve ever met .
Days later, she complained to him that he shouldn’t grab her body. Instead of denying the charge, he texted acknowledging that he had done it more than once, but claimed she couldn’t tell the difference between love and molestation.
On November 14, he texted that he’d helped her get the job but she wasn’t grateful:
“Even you must know that even if I don’t marry you, I am yours for life.”
In another email Pachauri says,
“I find it now very difficult to hug you. What haunts me are your words from the last time that I ‘grabbed’ your body. That would apply to someone who would want to molest you. I loved you in the soul, mind, heart…”
The last straw for the young researcher was Pachauri’s determination last December to make her sit next to him in business class on an international flight – with no ambiguity about his intentions. Six months earlier (June 2014), when on a plane with him, he passed her a hand-written note (now in the hands of police):
“I dreamt last night that I did the preliminaries of making love to you, but woke up at the critical moment.”
In December, when she insisted on sitting in economy, he messaged:
“You should reflect on the massive insult you heaped on me by indicating that I was so toxic that you would prefer not to sit next to me on the plane. If that be the case there is no room for any interaction between us. To me that act of yours represented the ultimate in haughtiness, arrogance and insulting behaviour. If you had any human sensitivity you would have realised what you have done, and possibly apologised.
You are welcome to remain a paid guest of TERI. I really would not burden you with any work in future.”
In other words, submit or I’ll kill your career.
In one of these alleged e-mails, Pachauri says to this woman, who is 45 years his junior:
“But is a little show of tenderness so difficult for you? At the end of a long day is it so alien to your nature to sit on the sofa next to me and hold my hand, and possibly even give me a hug? Or do you want to confirm to me that you are bereft of any emotion?
You are either deliberately behaving in a manner that prevents you from getting closer to me, or you are truly a cold individual, whose emotions are only aroused by a nice looking young guy who you can take to bed with you…
I am yours for life and will always be yours, even when someone else enters your life.
And you have hurt me so often by being inconsistently cold on so many occasions. Not letting me touch you, even though I have always treated your body with reverence and as sacred. Perhaps, you regard a physical relationship as a matter of expediency and convenience. Well I don’t, and certainly not with your body which I worship, as you should have found out by not. Even when I ‘grabbed you body’ I had my left hand over your right breast. Did I make even the slightest attempt to hold it in my hand or fondle you there?”
The police sought to lock up Pachauri in February, pending the court hearing, but he suddenly was admitted to hospital with heart pains. He eventually was allowed bail on various strict conditions, including a travel ban. But in June his brother-in-law died in the US. The courts considered this of sufficient gravity for him to fly to the US this month for the funeral.
Pardon my cynicism, but the Delhi police seem to be running dead on the prosecution. A local court complained on May 21 about “snail’s pace” police progress, with no interview conducted during the previous two months. During the first interview, he begged off claiming ill-health, and in the third interview, the police desisted early “in view of his advanced age,” according to a senior police officer.
Strangely, the 74-year-old was not too old to chair the world’s most influential climate body until February while doing global jetset celebrity appearances. At this rate, as it could be years before the Delhi coppers get him into court, his UNSW honorary doctorate seems safe for a while.
Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)