Journalists in Tamil Nadu have written a sharp letter to governor Banwarilal Purohit demanding unconditional apology for "harassing" a senior woman journalist after he patted her on cheek during a press conference on April 17. The pat on the cheek came moments after he dismissed a barrage of questions about allegations of sexual misconduct against himself over the raging Tamil Nadu Madurai Kamaraj University college sex scandal. A day later, Purohit apologised for his behaviour. Below is the text of the letter by the journalists' collective:
It is with great shock that we write this letter to you. As the constitutional head of our state of Tamil Nadu, you have crossed lines of not just basic courtesy but also those of the law.
Your action today in touching the cheek of a senior lady reporter who asked you a question at the press meet was patronising at best and a violation of her rights as a woman at worst. She was there since you had called for a press meet and she was simply discharging her duty as a journalist.
We do not wish to question your motives on this gesture, considering that it is appalling that you should choose to do such a thing at a press meet that you addressed on the case of a professor allegedly luring students to sexual encounters with her seniors and who claimed to know you.
I asked TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit a question as his press conference was ending. He decided to patronisingly – and without consent – pat me on the cheek as a reply. @TheWeekLive pic.twitter.com/i1jdd7jEU8— Lakshmi Subramanian (@lakhinathan) April 17, 2018
It, however, does not behove the constitutional head of a state to throw basic courtesy and respect to the winds and attempt to touch a lady without her consent, even if the gesture may have been "paternal" in nature.
We would like to draw your attention to Section 2 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998, which defines "harassment".
“Harassment” means any indecent conduct or act by a man which causes or is likely to cause intimidation, fear, shame or embarrassment, including abusing or causing hurt or nuisance or assault or use of force.
We would also urge you to read this along with Section 4 of the same Act which is reproduced below for your kind perusal.
“Whoever commits or participates or abets harassment of women in or within the precincts of any educational institution, temple or place of worship, bus stop, road, railway station, cinema theatre, park, beach, place of festival, public service vehicle or vessel or any other place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine, which shall not be less than Rs 10,000.”
The offence is cognisable and non-bailable as your esteemed staff will point out.
Mr Governor, we the journalists of Tamil Nadu demand that you offer an unconditional apology to the journalist in question and also assure all journalists of Tamil Nadu that you will not violate their rights in the future.