Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.
Electronic messages cited in a Delhi police report tell the story of a spirited young woman who effectively lost her job because she wouldn’t let her boss grope her.
You’re on a business trip, seated beside your boss on the plane. Your boss passes you a note that reads:
I dreamt last night that I did the preliminaries of making love to you, but woke up at the critical moment.
How would you respond? How comfortable would you feel sitting there for hours, trapped?
A female employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) says that Rajendra Pachauri, its most senior official, handed her a hand-written note that said exactly this when they were on a plane together in June 2014. It is now in the possession of the Delhi police.
An online Indian news source has published a collection of electronic messages allegedly sent by Pachauri to this unnamed 29-year-old woman. They now form part of a police document known as a First Information Report (FIR). The online version of these messages is difficult to read, so I’ve cut-and-pasted the text, added some formatting, and produced a 23-page PDF available here.
Pachauri, the recently resigned chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has PR flaks and a legal team. What is his version of events? Here’s a quote from a Reuters news story:
[Pachauri’s] lawyers have said his computer and mobile phone were hacked and that vested interests were maligning him because of his outspoken stand on global warming.
Shadowy, nefarious interests are out to get him, so they hacked his electronic devices to make him look bad. Nice try, but few people who examine firsthand the text messages and e-mails Pachauri says are fake are likely to believe that.
If vested interests wanted to make this man look bad by forging documents, one or two would have sufficed. Why spend 16 months at it – apparently inventing out of whole cloth love poems with titles such as She’s Cold and My Classical Indian Beauty?
Why show Pachauri whining endlessly about how obstinate, unresponsive, unfeeling, and self-centered the complainant is? Why fabricate two-hour, late-night electronic chat sessions in which she keeps telling him she needs to sleep and he says things such as: “Just please forgive me so that at least I can stop crying”?
If the point was to undermine Pachauri’s climate efforts, why did these allegations surface two weeks ago rather than, say, two weeks before December’s Paris climate summit?
The more logical and likely explanation is that the man who wrote these electronic messages is, in fact, an abusive slime ball.
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. [p. 10, line 367+]
In another alleged e-mail, written after she sustained an injury, Pachauri begins by telling her that since physical recovery is aided by mental and emotional well-being, he doesn’t want to upset her. He then spends several paragraphs berating her. He reminds her that he gave her a job, scolds her for wanting to do her doctorate with someone other than him, and criticizes decisions she has made about her own body:
In the context of your injury, what faith have you shown in me. You have been going to the gym against my explicit advice. You took ages to go to an orthopaedic doctor, who I am not sure even examined you properly. The first thing he should have done is to xray your neck and vertebrae…I had to take you to Suchita literally screaming and kicking… [p. 5, line 51+]
There is, by the way, an orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Suchita Talloo with an office close to TERI headquarters. Is this the sort of thing a hacker would make up?
The e-mail continues, since Pachauri is apparently the kind of boss who not only expresses opinions about whether his subordinates should go to the gym, he’s the sort who tells female employees:
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? [typos in original, p. 6, line 180+]
He’s a prize, all right. In a few lines, he criticizes her for trying to fend him off, implies that she must be a slut since she objects to his ‘reverent’ embrace, and argues that he’s virtuous because he didn’t take as many liberties as he might have.
As the Shub Niggurath blog observed yesterday, this sordid saga took a vicious turn in December 2014. Not wanting to sit beside him on a plane one more time, this young woman attempted to sit on her own in economy class. Pachauri allegedly responded with an e-mail that reads, in part:
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. [p.20, line 754+]
I’ve read all of these electronic messages twice. They tell the story of a young woman who, following months of valiant struggle, perseverance, and vast patience effectively loses her job because she won’t let her boss grope her.
At the end of the police document, the complainant sums up her overall experience:
Whenever I had to travel with Dr. Pachauri for work, he would use the opportunity to constantly say vulgar and demeaning things to me. Whenever I sat next to him on the flight, he would try to hold my hand and tell me how much he loved me. If I ever spoke to any other male colleague, he would remark that I was going to sleep with him. I made repeated requests and pleas to Dr. Pachauri to stop this behaviour towards me. I have categorically told him not to touch me in appropriately or to hold me or kiss me, but Dr. Pachauri did not stop…
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 date 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. [pp. 20-21, line 785+]
It is the responsibility of the police to investigate this matter carefully, to verify that these electronic messages are, indeed, genuine and that the hand-written note is what it appears to be. It is the role of the courts to provide due process. No one should be punished before being given full opportunity to explain, to present evidence in their own defence – and to challenge the evidence against them.
In the meantime, anyone who goes to the trouble of looking directly at this collection of electronic messages will find it difficult to believe that this matter has anything to do with villainous hackers trying to smear a climate warrior.
There’s a far more plausible explanation: the former chairman of the IPCC is a despicable and disturbed human being.
a hearty hat tip to Shub Niggurath, for assorted research assistance
Donna Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist and author of the 2013 book, Into the Dustbin: Rajendra Pachauri, the Climate Report & the Nobel Peace Prize. See Amazon.com, Amazon India, and other Amazon stores.