By Maya Palit
The BJP in Tamil Nadu has come out guns blazing, defending V. Shanmuganathan, and suggesting that “vested interests” were at work in this situation. They even suspect a ‘Christian conspiracy’, claiming that the politician was attacked because of his valiant battle against religious conversion in the North-East. No prizes for guessing that this may have to do with his loyalty to the prime minister, whose achievements he apparently praised, even after the 2002 riots.
Meghalaya has been abuzz with talk about the resignation of its governor V Shanmuganathan (also a Rashtriya Swayamsevak pracharak). It happened late last night, as a response to the demands laid out in a letter to the president and prime mininister by 98 Raj Bhavan employees, which addressed the recent allegations against Shanmuganathan for sexual harassment. Apparently, the governor molested a young woman during her interview for the post of public relations officer in December. Although she did not file an FIR or complaint at the Meghalaya Women’s State Commission, she recounted the experience to a journalist friend (apparently intending it to be confidential), who then passed it on to media houses. Activists from independent parties like Thma U Rangli-Juki based in Shillong demanded an enquiry into the governor’s behaviour, while the DGP mentioned that legal counsel had been requested in the matter. He vehemently denied the allegations in a press conference with the media on Tuesday, and said the women he works with “are like my daughters and granddaughters”. Understandably, his comments comment led to the trending of the hashtag #notmygrandfather on social media, and he was the butt of jokes in memes published on the Shillong-based webzine Raiot.
But according to the letter, Shanmuganathan has had a murky track record around young women for a while now. “We expect the hon’ble Prime Minister to take action and remove the incumbent Governor of Meghalaya and restore the dignity of Raj Bhavan,” it said, going on to claim that Shanmuganathan had been hiring only women to work for him in the recent past, and had turned Raj Bhavan into a “young ladies’ club”. The Indian Express, which is in possession of the letter, published other extracts from it which detail the governor’s behaviour: “The worst problem is that the Raj Bhavan has now under this Governor become a place where young ladies come and go at will with direct orders from the Governor. The security of the Governor’s house is also being seriously compromised.” This news comes at the end of another political scandal — the alleged rape of a minor by a Meghalaya MLA Julius Dorphang — and reports from last year had alarming statistics which implied that crimes against women in the state are rising. Having said that, his resignation is a victory, and should be followed by a detailed investigation.