Banwarilal Purohit, BJP’s Hindutva and Insult to Woman Journalist

Governors appointed by the present BJP government behave in a autocratic manner, especially in states ruled by other parties and when government formation is to be decided.

Kiran Bedi in Puducherry (Congress government),  Najeeb Jung and Anil Baijal in Delhi (AAP government), Vidyasagar Rao and Banwarilal Purohit in Tamil Nadu (ADMK benami government) are examples for the first type.

Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and even Bihar governors behaved like BJP’s agents in forming a new government or changing existing government.

The behaviour of Banwarilal Purohit ever since he was appointed as Tamil Nadu governor has been against all norms laid down in Indian constitution. His travels to districts to conduct reviews with officials, appointment of Vice Chancellors to universities without the knowledge and advice of council of ministers (elected representatives) met with condemnation from various political parties and democratic forces.

His latest Thiruvilaiyadal is related to a woman college faculty talking to girl students luring them to do sexual favours where the his name was dropped several times. And his behaviour with a woman journalist in a press meet at Raj Bhavan evoked angry protest from the journalist and widespread condemnation.

We publish here the statement issued by Chennai Press Club (received in WhatsApp).

Hindutva ideology breeds autocratic mindset and condescending/insulting behaviour towards women and oppressed castes. Purohit, even though he shuttled between Congress and BJP, is a living specimen of such a personality.

18 April 2018

The Chennai Press Club,
Chennai. 600 005

Shri Banwarilal Purohit
The Governor of Tamil Nadu
Raj Bhavan, Chennai – 600 022

Sub: Your unbecoming conduct with a woman journalist during the press meet On 17 April 2018 at Durbar Hall, Raj Bhavan – Regarding.

We write this letter in great pain and shock. We never expected such an unbecoming conduct from you being the Head of State.

During the press meet yesterday, Shmt.Lakshmi Subramanian, a Correspondent with the magazine The Week asked you certain questions for which you have every right to deny answering. But, instead of answering or refusing to answer, you chose to pat the cheek of the lady scribe in front of her peers and live cameras.

With your age and political experience, you may very well come up with an explanation that it is just a parental gesture and no overtones involved. But, the journalist who was at the receiving end doesn’t seem to have felt that way.

The press meet was called by you and Shmt.Lakshmi Subramaniam was doing her duty as a journalist. But instead of answering, you chose to patronisingly pat her cheek which can very well be termed as harassment.
Your gesture assumes significance in the wake of your name being mired in a controversy where a college faculty was talking to girl students luring them to do sexual favours where your name was dropped several times.

Though you may take shelter that it was an innocuous gesture from an elderly man, the law says otherwise. What would amount to ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’ was settled as early in 1966 by a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in State of Punjab Versus Major Singh 1967 AIR(SC) 63.

The Constitutional Bench held as follows :

(Section 356) The section was intended as much in the interest of the woman concerned as in the interest of public morality and decent behaviour and the object of the section could be achieved only if the word ‘modesty’ was considered to be an attribute of a human female irrespective of whether she had developed enough understanding to realise that an act was offensive to decent female behaviour or not.

The sense of modesty in all women is of course not the same; it varies from woman to woman. In many cases, the woman’s sense of modesty would not be known to others. If the test of the offence was the reaction of the woman, then it would have to be proved that the offender knew the standard of the modesty of the woman concerned, as otherwise, it could not be proved that he had intended to outrage “her” modesty or knew it to be likely that his act would have that effect. This would be impossible to prove in the large majority of cases. Hence, in my opinion, the reaction of the woman would be irrelevant.

Intention and knowledge are of course states of mind. They are nonetheless facts which can be proved. They cannot be proved by direct evidence. They have to be inferred from the circumstances of each case. Such an inference, one way or the other, can only be made if a reasonable man would, on the facts of the case, make it. The question in each case must, in my opinion, be: will a reasonable man think that the act was done with the intention of outraging the modesty of the woman or with the knowledge that it was likely to do so ? The test of the outrage of modesty must, therefore, be whether a reasonable man will think that the act of the offender was intended to or was known to be likely to outrage the modesty of the woman. In considering the question, he must imagine the woman to be a reasonable woman and keep in view all circumstances concerning her, such as, her station and way of life and the known notions of modesty of such a woman. The expression ‘outrage her modesty’ must be read with the words “intending to or knowing it to be likely that he will”. So read, it would appear that though the modesty to be considered is of the woman concerned, the word “her” was not used to indicate her reaction. Read all together, the words indicate an act done with the intention or knowledge that it was likely to outrage the woman’s modesty, the emphasis being on the intention and knowledge.” (emphasis supplied).

Journalists, particularly woman journalists work in very difficult circumstances and face immense hardships in their day to day duty. Particularly it is very difficult for a woman journalist to survive in a man’s world and survive the odds. A woman journalist may have to face several hardships, harassments and untold miseries.

The Governor being the constitutional head of the state is expected to set an example by his words and actions. But, we are sorry to say, your behaviour in yesterday’s press meet was neither exemplary nor condonable.

There is an imminent danger that other politicians may emulate your actions and try to misbehave with working women journalists.

We request you to immediately issue an apology for your unbecoming conduct during the press meet on 17 April 2018, at Raj Bhavan, Tamil Nadu and avoid precipitating the matter further.

Joint Secretary
Chennai Press Club

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