Facing Prison, Ruin And Disgrace, Rajendra Pachauri Claims Climate Sceptics Are Behind Sexual Harassment Case

  • Date: 27/03/16
  • John Vidal, The Observer

Nobel peace prize winner and former IPCC boss says climate change sceptics are behind allegations he harassed female colleague

Rajendra Pachauri

Rajendra Pachauri says his computers and telephone were hacked and that he has ‘repeatedly received anonymous death threats’. Photograph: Alamy

It was the crowning glory of a distinguished career when, in December 2007, the head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the charismatic Rajendra Pachauri, collected the Nobel peace prize in Oslo.

Elected by governments five years before to chair the small independent organisation charged with informing them on the state of global climate science, Pachauri had seen off the Bush administration, which loathed the IPCC for not taking its line on climate change. He had weathered vicious attacks by sceptics and steered the IPCC to worldwide acclaim.

The award, which he shared with Al Gore, was, he said, “a rare triumph for science” and for the many scientists who had been relentlessly attacked in the rightwing press.

Nine years on, this international figure, who was named Indian of the year and has received major awards from dozens of countries, is lying low in Delhi. He is accused of sexual harassment, stalking and criminal intimidation of a young colleague whom he had employed as a researcher while he travelled the world seeking governmental support for action on climate change.

Faced with prison, ruin and disgrace when his case comes before the Delhi courts next month, Pachauri has resigned from the IPCC and stepped back from Teri, the huge energy research institute that he founded and which has taken solar lighting to hundreds of millions of Indians. Meanwhile, his many enemies are revelling in his discomfort, his health has suffered and he has been subject to death threats and demonstrations by women’s groups.

His accuser, who cannot be named, is a science graduate. She says he besieged her with offensive messages, emails and texts in the 16 months she spent working with him. In February 2015, she gave police a cache of several thousand electronic messages as evidence.

She says she rejected Pachauri’s “carnal and perverted” advances. “On many occasions, Dr Pachauri forcibly grabbed my body, hugged me, held my hands, kissed me and touched my body in an inappropriate manner,” she told police.

From the emails, Pachauri appears enamoured of the woman. “I am yours for life,” he writes at one point; “I have never felt so overwhelmingly in love as I have been with you, and even though you gave me so much pain, I will always be your well-wisher and carry beautiful memories of the joyous moments between us, limited as they might have been,” he says in another.

In emails, poems and messages, he professes undying love for her “in soul, mind and heart”.

“I will go on a fast after a cricket match … I will break the fast only when you believe I love you with sincerity and unfathomable depth,” he wrote.

“Please you are not to grab me and or kiss me,” the woman told Pachauri in one text. He replied: “I wish you would see the difference between something tender and loving and something crass and vulgar.”

Until now, Pachauri has said nothing about the case beyond denying all the charges, and claiming that his emails and computers had been hacked or misused. Now, however, in a series of emails with the Observer and in one meeting in London, he claims that his accuser was acting for money, and was probably set up to trap him by persons unknown. [...]

He claims it would have been easy for someone to have assumed his identity and sent messages seemingly from him to her, without his knowledge. [...]

Through her lawyers, the woman has told the Observer that there is no truth in Pachauri’s claim that computers were hacked, and that the Delhi police are also convinced there is no truth in it.

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